Category Archives: US Congress

Obama’s 2017 Budget Aims at ‘Meeting Our Greatest Challenges’; Congressional GOP Says Don’t Bother

President Obama's 2017 budget reflects the initiatives he discussed in the State of the Union: the need to invest in infrastructure, education, research and development, climate action and the transition to clean, renewable energy. House Speaker Paul Ryan says the President's budget is dead on arrival © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
President Obama’s 2017 budget reflects the initiatives he discussed in the State of the Union: the need to invest in infrastructure, education, research and development, climate action and the transition to clean, renewable energy. House Speaker Paul Ryan says the President’s budget is dead on arrival © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Congressional Republicans have snubbed the President, refusing to even invite his representative to discuss his FY 2017 federal budget (See New York Times, Congressional Republicans Balk at Obama’s Budget, Sight Unseen”). It’s unprecedented. Here’s an overview from the White House of what is in it, how it addresses the great challenges this country faces – the imperative for climate action, infrastructure investment, job growth, income inequality, restoring opportunity – and see what you think:

FACT SHEET: The President’s Fiscal Year 2017 Budget: Overview

Meeting Our Greatest Challenges

Under the President’s leadership, we have turned our economy around and created 14 million jobs. Our unemployment rate is below five percent for the first time in almost eight years. Nearly 18 million people have gained health coverage as the Affordable Care Act has taken effect. And we have dramatically cut our deficits by almost three-quarters and set our Nation on a more sustainable fiscal path.

Yet while it is important to take stock of our progress, this Budget is not about looking back at the road we have traveled. It is about looking forward and making sure our economy works for everybody, not just those at the top. It is about choosing investments that not only make us stronger today, but also reflect the kind of country we aspire to be – the kind of country we want to pass on to our children and grandchildren.

The Budget makes critical investments in our domestic and national security priorities while adhering to the bipartisan budget agreement signed into law last fall, and it lifts sequestration in future years so that we continue to invest in our economic future and our national security. It also drives down deficits and maintains our fiscal progress through smart savings from health care, immigration, and tax reforms.

The Budget shows that the President and the Administration remain focused on meeting our greatest challenges – including accelerating the pace of innovation to tackle climate change and find new treatments for devastating diseases; giving everyone a fair shot at opportunity and economic security; and advancing our national security and global leadership – not only for the year ahead, but for decades to come.

BUILDING ON OUR ECONOMIC AND FISCAL PROGRESS

The Budget makes critical investments while adhering to the bipartisan budget agreement signed into law last fall. It lifts sequestration in 2018 and beyond so that we continue to invest in our economic future and our national security. It also drives down deficits and maintains our fiscal progress through smart savings from health care, immigration, and tax reforms. 

A Record of Job Growth and Economic Expansion. Under the President’s leadership, the U.S. economy has become an engine of job growth and economic expansion, outpacing other advanced economies in recovery from the Great Recession. American businesses have added 14 million jobs over the past 71 months – the longest streak of job growth on record. Our unemployment rate is below five percent for the first time in almost eight years. And the economy added 903,000 new manufacturing jobs in the last six years – the first sustained job growth in the sector since the 1990s. Nearly 18 million Americans have gained health insurance under the Affordable Care Act and our high school graduation rate is at an all-time high.

Reflecting on Our Fiscal Progress. We have made remarkable economic and fiscal progress, showing what’s possible when strategic investment to grow our economy is paired with smart reforms, for example to our health care system, that address the true drivers of our long-term fiscal challenges. Since 2009, under the President’s leadership, Federal deficits have fallen by nearly three-quarters – the most rapid sustained defi­cit reduction since just after World War II. The annual deficit in 2015 fell to 2.5 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the lowest level since 2007, and well below the average of the last 40 years.

Building on Our Success for a Stronger Economy. The President’s Budget continues that approach, investing in America’s future and laying out a path to address our greatest challenges. It builds on the bipartisan budget agreement secured last fall, adhering to the discretionary levels provided for 2017, while also putting forward paid-for mandatory investments that are critical to building durable economic growth in the future and maintaining America’s edge as the leader in innovation and cutting-edge science. The Budget proposes a number of reforms – including a detailed international tax reform plan – that would modernize the business tax code to make it fairer and more efficient, and to create jobs. The Budget also finishes the job the past two bipartisan agreements started by preventing the return of harmful sequestration funding levels in 2018 and beyond, replacing the savings by closing tax loopholes and reforming tax expenditures, and with smart spending reforms.

Investing in Economic Growth While Maintaining Fiscal Responsibility. The Budget more than pays for all new investments, achieving $2.9 trillion of deficit reduction over 10 years, from health, tax, and immigration reforms, and other proposals. The Budget includes roughly $375 billion of health savings that grow over time and builds on the ACA with further incentives to improve qual­ity and control health care cost growth. The Budget achieves more than $955 billion in deficit reduction from reducing tax benefits for high-income households, helping to bring in sufficient revenues to make vital investments while also helping to meet our promises to seniors.  The Budget reflects the President’s support for commonsense, comprehensive immigration reform along the lines of the 2013 bipartisan Senate-passed bill, which CBO has estimated would reduce the deficit by about $170 billion over 10 years and by almost $1 trillion over two decades.

The Budget keeps deficits below three percent of GDP while stabilizing debt and putting it on a declining path for most of the next decade – key measures of fiscal progress – showing that investments in growth and opportunity are compatible with putting the Nation’s finances on a strong and sustainable path.

INNOVATION TO FORGE A BETTER FUTURE

The Budget invests in accelerating the pace of American innovation, so we can create jobs and build the economy of the future while tackling our greatest challenges, including addressing climate change and finding new treatments and cures for devastating diseases. The Budget includes investments in: 

Building a 21st Century Transportation System. The Budget invests $320 billion over 10 years in a multi-agency initiative to build a clean transportation system for the 21st Century that speeds goods to market while reducing America’s reliance on oil, cutting carbon pollution, and strengthening our resilience to the effects of the changing climate.  Overall, the 21st Century Clean Transportation Plan will increase American investments in clean transportation infrastructure by roughly 50 percent above current levels while reforming the transportation investments already being made to move America to more sustainable, low-carbon investments. 

Prioritizing Research and Development. The Budget sustains the Administration’s consistent prioritization of R&D with an invest­ment of $152 billion for R&D overall through both discretionary and mandatory funding proposals, a four percent increase from 2016. 

  • Doubling Clean Energy R&D. Since the President took office, the Administration has made the largest investments in clean energy in American history. The Budget provides $7.7 billion government-wide, a 20 percent increase over 2016, for fundamental and transformative clean energy R&D across 12 agencies, a first step in support of Mission Innovation, the landmark agreement currently among 20 countries to double government funding for clean energy R&D over five years.
  • Supporting Basic Research. The Budget provides $14.6 billion in 2017, an increase of over $900 million over the 2016 enacted level, for the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which invest in basic research – the type of R&D that is most likely to have spillover impacts to multiple endeavors and in which the private sector typically underinvests. 
  • Supporting a Cancer Moonshot. During his 2016 State of the Union Address, President Obama called on Vice President Biden to lead a new, national “Moonshot” initiative to eliminate cancer as we know it.  The Budget supports this effort with a $1 billion initiative to provide the funding necessary for researchers to accelerate the development of new cancer detection and treatments.  This includes $195 million in new cancer activities at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Fiscal Year 2016, $755 million in mandatory funds in the 2017 Budget for new cancer-related research activities at both NIH and the Food and Drug Administration, and support from other agencies such as the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs. 
  • Advancing Biomedical Research. The Budget provides $33.1 billion to support biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), providing about 10,000 new and competing NIH grants that will help us better understand the fundamental causes and mechanisms of disease, like the BRAIN Initiative and Precision Medicine.
  • Revitalizing American Manufacturing. The Budget invests in coordinated, cutting-edge manufacturing R&D, while also expanding industry-driven workforce training and providing additional resources through the Manufacturing Extension Partnership to help America’s small manufacturers access the technology and expertise they need to expand. It includes investments to grow the National Network of Manufacturing Innovation, a national network of innovative R&D centers to help keep U.S. manufacturing in the lead on technology. 
  • Creating the Industries and Jobs of the Future.  The Budget invests in R&D that can help create the industries and jobs of the future, such as supercomputing, Big Data, robotics, advanced materials, nanotechnology, and synthetic biology. In addition, the Budget makes new investments to sustain America’s leading edge in the development of autonomous vehicle technologies and self-driving cars.
  • Investing in Civil Space Activities. The Budget provides robust funding to support space exploration, monitor the Earth’s weather and climate from space, develop new space technologies, and partner with the private sector to reinforce the Nation’s leadership and take the next step on the journey to Mars.
  • Addressing Challenges in Agriculture through R&D.Recognizing the importance of science and technology to meet challenges in agriculture, the Budget invests in three major ar­eas of agricultural R&D: the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative competitive research grants; the Agricultural Research Service intramural research; and construction and renovation of key infrastructure investments based on the Department of Agriculture’s facility modernization plan.
  • Simplifying and Expanding the Research and Experimentation Tax Credit. The Research and Experimentation (R&E) Tax Credit is an important Federal incentive for private-sector research investments, and last year, the President signed legislation to make the credit permanent and expand the incentive for R&D investments by small businesses. The Budget simplifies and expands the tax credit for companies investing in innovation. 

Protecting and Expanding the Nation’s Water Supply. The Budget supports the Administration’s two-part water innovation strategy to boost water sustainability and reduce the price and energy costs of new water supply technology to increase the resilience of our Nation’s water supplies to stressors like climate change and population growth, among others.

Supporting Adoption of Clean Energy. In addition to Mission Innovation funding, the Budget provides over $1.3 billion to accelerate the adoption of clean energy sources such as solar, wind, and low-carbon fossil fuels, and energy-efficiency technologies.

Partnering with Communities to Tackle Climate Risk. The Budget invests in programs that advance our scientific understanding of projected climate impacts, including changes in droughts, wildland fires, and coastal and inland flooding; assist communities in planning and preparing for future risks; and support risk-reduction and adaptation projects on the ground.

Protecting and Preserving Public Lands and Oceans. The Budget includes robust funding to support proven programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund that allow Federal agencies and their partners to enhance the resilience of our lands and waters, and continue to preserve and share our cultural and historical identity.

Leading Global Efforts to Cut Carbon Pollution and Enhance Climate Change Resilience. In support of the President’s Climate Action Plan, the Budget provides $1.3 billion to advance the goals of the Global Climate Change Initiative (GCCI) through important multilateral and bilateral engagement with major and emerging economies. This amount includes $750 million in U.S. funding for the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which will help developing countries leverage public and private financing to invest in reducing carbon pollution and strengthening resilience to climate change.

OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL 

As the President stated in the 2016 State of the Union Address, one of the Nation’s key challenges is how to give everyone a fair shot at opportunity and economic security. In today’s global economy, our competitiveness depends on tapping the full potential of all Americans. To address this challenge, the Budget supports education; training and support for workers and their families; access to health care; and other investments to ensure that all Americans contribute to and benefit from our economic growth.

Improving Access to High-Quality Child Care and Early Education.High-quality child care and early education for young children support parents in the workforce and help foster healthy child development and school readiness. The Budget aims to ensure that children have access to high-quality learning starting at birth by:

  • Expanding access to quality child care for working families. The Budget ensures that all low- and moderate-income working families with young children have access to quality, affordable child care, as opposed to the small share of children who receive this help today. Overall, this will expand access to high-quality care for more than 1.1 million additional children under age four by 2026.
  • Cutting taxes for families paying for child care with a credit of up to $3,000 per child. The Budget triples the maximum Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC) for families with children under age five and makes the full CDCTC available to families with incomes of up to $120,000, benefiting families with young children, older children, and dependents who are elderly or have disabilities.
  • Increasing the duration of Head Start programs, while maintaining access to Head Start. The Budget includes $9.6 billion for Head Start, an increase of $434 million over 2016 enacted. Within this total, the Budget provides an additional $292 million in 2017 to increase the number of children attending Head Start in a full school-day and -year program, which research shows is more effective than programs of shorter duration and also helps meet the needs of working parents.
  • Supporting universal preschool. The Preschool for All initiative, in partnership with the States, provides all four-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families with access to high-quality preschool, while encouraging States to expand those programs to reach additional children from middle-class families and establish full-day kindergarten policies.  The Budget increases funding for Preschool Development Grants (PDGs), which lay the groundwork for universal preschool. With the support of Federal funding made available through the PDG program, 18 States are currently developing and expanding high-quality preschool programs in targeted, high-need communities.
  • Investing in voluntary, evidence-based home visiting. The Budget extends and expands evidence-based, voluntary home visiting programs, which enable nurses, social workers, and other professionals to connect families to services to support children’s healthy development and learning.
  • Invests in early learning for children with disabilities. The Budget provides increased funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Preschools Grants and the IDEA Infants and Families program, an increase of $80 million compared to 2016, including funding to help identify, develop and scale-up evidence-based practices for early identification of and intervention for learning and developmental delays. 

Putting All Students on a Path to College and Careers. We have made significant progress in expanding educational opportunities and we are getting results: high school graduation rates are up, drop-out rates are down, and far more students are attending college than in 2008. But there’s more we must do to ensure that all children get a high-quality education that allows them to reach their full potential.  The Budget focuses on providing equity and opportunity for all students in elementary and secondary education and expanding college opportunity and quality by:

  • Helping Students Prepare for College and Careers. The Budget increases funding for Title I Grants to Local Educational Agencies, the cornerstone of Federal efforts to ensure that all students, including poor and minority students, students with disabilities, and English learners, graduate from high school prepared for college and careers.
  • Supporting Computer Science for All. The Budget invests $4 billion in mandatory funding over three years for the new Computer Science for All initiative, which would support State efforts to expand access for all students to computer science instruction and programs of study. The Budget invests discretionary resources in a Computer Science for All Development Grants program for school districts to promote innovative strategies to provide high-quality instruction and other learning opportunities in computer science. 
  • Providing Tuition-Free Community College for Responsible Students. The Budget funds America’s College Promise (ACP), which would create a new partnership with States to make two years of community college free for responsible students, letting students earn the first half of a bachelor’s degree or an associate’s degree and acquire skills needed in the workforce at no cost. America’s College Promise would also provide grants to four-year HBCUs and MSIs to provide first-time low-income students, including community college transfers, with up to two years of college at zero or significantly reduced tuition.
  • Strengthening Pell Grants. Pell Grants are central to our efforts to help low- and moderate- income students afford college. The Budget supports and encourages on-time and accelerated completion through year-round Pell availability to low-income students who have completed a full-time course load and through a $300 increase in the maximum Pell Grant for students who take 15 or more credits. The Budget also continues to index the grant to inflation indefinitely for future generations. The Second Chance Pell proposal expands opportunity to incarcerated individuals eligible for release with the goals of helping them get jobs and strengthen their communities.
  • Simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The Budget eliminates burdensome and unnecessarily complex student aid application questions to make it easier for students and families to access Federal student aid and afford a college education.
  • Simplifying and expanding education tax benefits. The Budget streamlines and expands education tax benefits by consolidating the Lifetime Learning Credit into an expanded American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), which would be available for five years and refundable up to $1,500; exempting Pell Grants from taxation and the AOTC calculation; and eliminating tax on student loan debt forgiveness, while repealing the complicated student loan interest deduction for new borrowers. 

Helping Workers Get the Skills They Need for the 21st Century Economy. A nation’s ability to ensure a steady and consistent pipeline of highly skilled workers is one key ingredient to helping its economy grow and thrive.  One of the surest paths to ensuring that the economy works for everyone is to expand access to job training and education for in-demand skills.  The Budget supports this agenda by:

  • Expanding Technical Training Programs for Middle Class Jobs. The Budget proposes a new American Technical Training Fund to provide competitive grants to support evidence-based, tuition-free job training programs in high-demand fields. 
  • Expanding the Proven Learn-and-Earn Strategy of Apprenticeship. The Budget establishes a $2 billion mandatory Apprenticeship Training Fund to help meet the President’s goal to double the number of apprentices across the United States, giving more workers the opportunity to develop job-relevant skills while earning a paycheck.
  • Creating a Talent Compact to Keep and Attract Jobs to the United States. The Budget includes $3 billion in competitive funding to create more than 50 “Talent Hotspots” across the United States that would prioritize a sector and make a commitment to recruit and train the workforce to help local businesses grow and thrive, attract more jobs from overseas, and fuel the talent needs of entrepreneurs. This proposal would produce a pipeline of about half a million skilled workers over the next five years.
  • Empowering Workers, Training Providers, and Employers with Better Information on Jobs, Skills and Training.  The Budget proposes a new Workforce Data Science and Innovation Fund that would recruit to the Department of Labor (DOL) a best-in-class team to help States find new ways to use technology and data analytics to improve training programs and consumer choice. And similar to HHS’s Open Health Data Initiative, DOL would partner with the Department of Commerce to develop new open source data on jobs and skills to spur the creation of new products to help match workers to better jobs.
  • Opening Doors to a First Job for More Young Americans. The Budget invests $5.5 billion in mandatory funding to help more than one million young people gain the work experience, skills and networks that come from having a first job.
  • Creating Pathways to High-Growth Jobs. The Budget builds on the progress in the bipartisan Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) by funding the core DOL WIOA formula grants at their full authorized level and by investing $3 billion in mandatory competitive funding for regional partnerships that bring together employers, education and training providers, and workforce boards with the goal of training a half million people and placing them into jobs in high-demand sectors.
  • Investing in Health Professions Education to Improve Access to Health Care Providers and Services. The Budget invests in growing the health care workforce, including expanding and extending funding for the National Health Service Corps through FY 2020 to increase the number of providers serving in the areas across the country that need them most.

Helping Americans Thrive in the 21st Century Economy. The Budget invests in programs that help ensure workers in the 21st century economy can balance work and family obligations, stay healthy, save for retirement, and are protected during temporary periods of unemployment and upon return to work. The Budget also supports evidence-based efforts to reduce poverty and help those who are struggling to get back on their feet. 

  • Tax Reform that Promotes Growth and Opportunity. The Budget’s tax proposals support work by expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit for workers without qualifying children, and creating a Second Earner Tax Credit for married couples in which both spouses work.  
  • Strengthening Efforts to Help Low-Income Families Succeed.The Budget funds proposals designed to reduce poverty, assist families in deep poverty or experiencing a financial crisis, and improve efforts to help parents find and keep jobs. These proposals include establishing an Emergency Aid and Service Connection Grants program, strengthening the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF), creating a permanent Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer for Children program, expanding opportunity for Native American Youth, and building on current efforts to better serve Native youth.
  • Expanding Paid Leave. The Budget encourages States to establish paid leave programs, providing more than $2 billion for the Paid Leave Partnership Initiative to help up to five States launch paid family and medical leave programs, as well as small grants to help States and localities conduct analyses to inform the development of paid family and medical leave programs. These investments complement the President’s executive actions to expand paid sick leave for employees of Federal contractors.
  • Modernizing the Unemployment Insurance Safety Net. The Budget proposes a cost-neutral set of reforms to strengthen and modernize the Unemployment Insurance (UI) program to reflect the modern economy and workforce. These reforms ensure more hardworking Americans have access to UI if they lose a job, provide new protections for workers who take a pay cut in order to get back into work, strengthen the program’s connection to work, make the program more responsive to economic downturns, and ensure State programs have enough resources to protect workers in the midst of a recession. 
  • Helping All Workers Save for Retirement. The Budget includes a package of proposals aimed at increasing access to retirement plans and increasing the portability of retirement savings and benefits.  These proposals aim to ensure near-universal access to workplace retirement savings accounts and test new approaches to making retirement benefits more portable across jobs. 
  • Partnering with Communities to Expand Opportunity.Initiatives such as Promise Zones, Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership, Partnership for Sustainable Communities, and Performance Partnership Pilots for Disconnected Youth have supported holistic, local responses to pressing issues. The Budget continues the Administration’s place-based approach to coordinating programs that help create jobs and opportunity, promote resilience and sustainability, and implement local visions in communities across the Nation.
  • Ending Homelessness. The Budget sustains funding to support programs dedicated to ending veteran homelessness, while also funding housing vouchers and rapid rehousing over the next ten years to reach and maintain the goal of ending homelessness among all of America’s families in 2020. This significant investment is based on recent rigorous research that found that families who utilized vouchers – compared to alternative forms of assistance to the homeless – had fewer incidents of homelessness, child separations, intimate partner violence and school moves, less food insecurity, and generally less economic stress.

Ensuring Access to Quality, Affordable Health Care. The Budget supports the Affordable Care Act, which is already providing coverage for millions of Americans through the Health Insurance Marketplaces, the delivery of financial assistance to make coverage affordable, and the expansion of Medicaid.  It also supports:

  • Expanding Access to Mental Health Care. One in five American adults experience a men­tal health issue at some point in their life, yet millions do not receive the care they need. The Budget includes $500 million in new mandatory funding to help engage individuals with serious mental illness in care, improve access to care by increasing service capacity and the behavioral health workforce, and ensure that behavioral health care systems work for everyone.
  • Addressing the Prescription Drug and Heroin Overdose Epidemic. More Americans now die every year from drug overdoses than they do in motor vehicle crashes. The Budget takes a two-pronged approach to address this epidemic.  First, it includes $1 billion in new mandatory funding over two years to expand access to treatment for prescription drug abuse and heroin use and help ensure that every American who wants treatment can access it and get the help they need.  Second, it includes funding to continue and increase current efforts to expand State-level prescription drug overdose prevention strategies, increase the availability of medication-assisted treatment programs, improve access to the overdose-reversal drug naloxone, and support targeted enforcement activities.

Incentivizing Justice Reform with the 21st Century Justice Initiative.The Administration continues to support criminal justice reform that enhances public safety, avoids excessive punishment and unnecessary incarceration, and builds trust between the justice system and the community. The Budget includes a $5 billion investment for a new 21st Century Justice Initiative that will focus on achieving three objectives: reducing crime, reversing practices that have led to unnecessarily long sentences and unnecessary incarceration, and building community trust.

NATIONAL SECURITY AND GLOBAL LEADERSHIP 

Economic growth and opportunity can only be achieved if America is safe and secure. The Budget provides the resources to address security threats wherever they arise and continue to demonstrate American leadership around the world.

Destroying ISIL. The President’s highest priority is keeping the American people safe. That is why the United States is leading the global coalition that will de­stroy the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The Budget provides over $11 billion for the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of State to support U.S. efforts to continue to hunt down terrorists; provide training and equipment to forces fighting ISIL on the ground; help stabilize communities liberated from ISIL in Syria and Iraq; disrupt ISIL’s financing and recruitment; strengthen our regional partners, provide humanitarian assistance to those impacted by the conflict; and support a political solution to the Syrian civil war. 

Countering Violent Extremism. The President’s Budget includes funding for innovative, community-based approaches that seek to discourage violent extremism and to improve the ability of communities to identify potential extremists and intervene where necessary to thwart radical behavior that may lead to violence.

Securing the Digital Economy for All Americans Through Strengthened Cybersecurity. The Budget invests $19 billion in overall Federal resources for cybersecurity to support a broad-based cybersecurity strategy for securing the Government, enhancing the security of critical infrastructure and important technologies, investing in next-generation tools and workforce, and empowering Americans. In particular, this funding will support the Cybersecurity National Action Plan, which takes near-term actions and puts in place a long-term strategy to enhance cybersecurity awareness and protections, protect privacy, maintain public safety as well as economic and national security, and empower Americans to take better control of their digital security.

Supporting the Transition in Afghanistan. The Budget includes resources to reinforce Afghanistan’s security and development by supporting military training and assistance, as well as health, education, justice, economic growth, governance, and other civilian assistance programs necessary to promote stability and strengthen diplomatic ties with the international community. The Budget also supports the U.S. military mission to train, advise, and assist the Afghan National Security Forces and maintain a counterterrorism capability.

Countering Russian Aggression and Supporting European Allies. The Budget includes $4.3 billion for political, economic, public diplomacy, and military support to build resilience and reduce vulnerabilities to Russian aggression among NATO allies and partner states in Europe, Eurasia, and Central Asia. As part of that effort the Budget includes $3.4 billion for the Department of Defense’s European Reassurance Initiative (ERI).

Providing Further Support for the Central American Regional Strategy. The Budget provides necessary resources to further support the U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central America by investing in a long-term, comprehensive approach designed to address the root causes of migration of unaccompanied children and families from the region.

Advancing the Rebalance to Asia and the Pacific. The Budget supports the Administration’s commitment to a comprehensive regional strategy in Asia and the Pacific that reinforces a rules-based order and advances security, prosperity, and human dignity across the region. For instance, the Budget provides the necessary resources to implement the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) — a historic, high-standard trade agreement with 11 countries of the region that levels the playing field for American workers and American businesses.

Growing Partnerships in Africa. The Budget provides funding to ensure United States will uphold the commitments it made during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in 2014, including with respect to Power Africa, Trade Africa, the Security Governance Initiative (SGI), the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), the African Peacekeeping Rapid Response Partnership (APRRP), and the Early Warning and Response Partnership (EWARP). It also provides resources for implementing the peace agreement in South Sudan. 

Preparing for the Future. In addition to addressing today’s changing security environment, the Budget makes sig­nificant investments to maintain our military’s superiority and ensure the United States always has an operational advantage over any potential adversary. The Budget does this by driving smart and essential innovation: pursuing new research and technology development; supporting updates and refinements to operational concepts and warfighting strategies; supporting capaci­ty building among local partners; building the Force of the Future; and pursuing additional enterprise reform.

Sustaining the President’s Development and Democracy Agenda. The Budget continues to advance the Administration’s development and democracy initiatives and activities as it seeks to reduce extreme poverty, encourage broad-based economic growth, and support democratic governance and human rights – and to drive progress toward meeting the global development vision and priorities adopted in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  This includes investments in Feed the Future, the President’s food security initiative; development programs that mobilize the private sector to deliver tangible results and advance U.S. interests; food aid and other humanitarian assistance programs; the First Lady’s Let Girls Learn Initiative; and effective global health programs, including for the President’s Malaria Initiative and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

Honoring Our Commitment to Veterans. The Budget ensures continued investment in the five pillars the President has outlined for supporting the Nation’s veterans: providing the resources and funding they deserve; ensuring high-quality and timely health care; getting veterans their earned benefits quickly and efficiently; ending veteran homelessness; and helping veterans and their families get good jobs, an education, and access to affordable housing. It also puts forward a proposal to fundamentally reform the broken appeals process for disability claims so that it can best serve our veterans. 

A GOVERNMENT OF THE FUTURE

The President is committed to driving last­ing change in how Government works – change that makes a significant, tangible, and positive difference in the economy and the lives of the American people. Over the past seven years, the Administration has launched successful efforts to modernize and improve citizen-facing services, eliminate wasteful spending, reduce the Federal real property footprint, improve the use of evidence to improve program performance, and spur innova­tion in the private sector by opening to the public tens of thousands of Federal data sets and inno­vation assets at the national labs.

Supporting the President’s Management Agenda. The Budget includes investments to continue driving the President’s Management Agenda by improving the service we provide to the American public; leveraging the Federal Government’s buying power to bring more value and efficiency to how we use taxpayer dollars; opening Government data and research to the private sector to drive innovation and economic growth; promoting smarter information technology; modernizing permitting and environmental review processes; creating new Idea Labs to support employees with promising ideas; and, attracting and retaining the best talent in the Federal workforce.  

Supporting Digital Service Delivery for Citizens. In 2014 the Administration piloted the U.S. Digital Service, a unit of innovators, entrepreneurs, and engineers. This team of America’s best digital experts has worked in collaboration with Federal agencies to implement streamlined and effective digital technology practices on the Nation’s highest priority programs. This work includes collaborating with the Department of Education to launch the new College Scorecard to give stu­dents, parents, and their advisors most reliable national data to help with college choice and supporting the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) transition to launch the new myUSCIS which makes it easier for users to access information about the immigration process and immigration ser­vices. To institutionalize the dramatic improve­ments that this approach has demonstrated, the Budget supports the Administration’s aggressive goal of hiring and placing 500 top technology and design experts to serve in the Government by January 2017.

Strengthening Federal Cybersecurity. As outlined above, the Budget provides $19 billion in resources for cybersecurity. This includes the creation of a new $3.1 billion revolving fund, the Information Technology Modernization Fund (ITMF), to retire the Government’s antiquated IT systems and transition to more secure and efficient modern IT systems, funding to streamline governance and secure Federal networks, and investments to strengthen the cybersecurity workforce and cybersecurity education across society.  

Building Evidence and Encouraging Innovation. The President has made it clear that policy decisions should be driven by evidence so that the Federal government can do more of what works and less of what does not. The Administration’s evidence-based approaches have resulted in important gains in areas ranging from reducing veteran homelessness, to improving educational outcomes, to enhancing the effectiveness of international development programs. The Budget invests in expanding evidence-based approaches, developing and testing effective practices, and enhancing government’s capacity to build and use evidence, in particular by expanding access to administrative data and further developing Federal, State, local, and tribal data infrastructure.

Reorganizing Government to Succeed in the Global Economy. The Budget also includes proposals to consolidate and reorganize Government agencies to make them leaner and more efficient, and it increases the use of evidence and evaluation to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely on programs that work.

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News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. For editorial feature and photo information,  email editor@news-photos-features.com. ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

In Final SOTU, Obama Summons Americans to Take Back the Political Process

House Speaker Paul Ryan suppresses a smile and otherwise sits on his hands, stony faced, during President Barack Obama's State of the Union Address, a poor sign in light of Obama's call for the need for bipartisan cooperation and compromise © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
House Speaker Paul Ryan suppresses a smile and otherwise sits on his hands, stony faced, during President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address, a poor sign in light of Obama’s call for the need for bipartisan cooperation and compromise © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

by Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union Address evoked the Obama of 2008 and 2009 – eager, enthusiastic, passionate.  The themes were echoes of all his major speeches – evoking the values that make America great, the vision of what American could be, and the path we can take to toward that “more perfect union.”

“Progress is not inevitable,” he said. “It’s the result of choices we make together.  And we face such choices right now.  Will we respond to the changes of our time with fear, turning inward as a nation, turning against each other as a people?  Or will we face the future with confidence in who we are, in what we stand for, in the incredible things that we can do together?” 

And again, he said, “The future we want — all of us want — opportunity and security for our families, a rising standard of living, a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids — all that is within our reach.  But it will only happen if we work together.  It will only happen if we can have rational, constructive debates.  It will only happen if we fix our politics.” 

Instead of focusing on the past, he looked to the future, clear-eyed and realistic, armed with the experience of seven years as President and Commander-in-Chief, and listed “four big questions that I believe we as a country have to answer — regardless of who the next President is, or who controls the next Congress:

“First, how do we give everyone a fair shot at opportunity and security in this new economy?

“Second, how do we make technology work for us, and not against us — especially when it comes to solving urgent challenges like climate change?

“Third, how do we keep America safe and lead the world without becoming its policeman?

“And finally, how can we make our politics reflect what’s best in us, and not what’s worst?”

He began so matter-of-factly, listing the transformational accomplishments of his administration tripping off the tongue – rescuing the economy from the brink of collapse, record increases in private sector jobs creation (more than 14 million new jobs), cutting the unemployment rate in half, reducing the federal deficit by 70%, raising the percentage of Americans with health care to record levels, raising America’s standing in the world and leading on an unprecedented Climate Agreement signed by 196 nations. But he ended with a fascinating admission of regret and his own failing at the corrosive partisanship, a warning of threat to the body politic and a call to action by the American people to rescue their democracy before it is too late.

“Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get all the attention.  And most of all, democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter; that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some special interest.

“Too many Americans feel that way right now,” he said, confessing “It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency — that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better.  I have no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I’ll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office.” 

In fact, throughout his presidency, he has reached out, pleaded for the “good ideas” that Republicans might want to offer instead of just tearing down – immigration reform, health care (that’s why it took 18 months), gun safety, climate action. The list goes on and on and on. 

“But, my fellow Americans, this cannot be my task — or any President’s — alone.  There are a whole lot of folks in this chamber, good people who would like to see more cooperation, would like to see a more elevated debate in Washington, but feel trapped by the imperatives of getting elected, by the noise coming out of your base.  I know; you’ve told me.  It’s the worst-kept secret in Washington.  And a lot of you aren’t enjoying being trapped in that kind of rancor.” 

Vice President Joe Biden rises, but House Speaker Paul Ryan sits on his hands during President Barack Obama's final State of the Union address © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Vice President Joe Biden rises, but House Speaker Paul Ryan sits on his hands during President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

But the signs weren’t good, because throughout his speech, with the exception of a shout-out to the troops and when he said, “I think outdated regulations that need to be changed,” the Republicans and House Speaker Paul Ryan sat steely throughout the speech, looking angry and disagreeable. 

Looking passed the Senators, Congressmen, Supreme Court Justices, cabinet members, military leaders that filled the Capitol, straight to the American people, he warned of the corruption of the political process, swallowed by rich donors and well-funded special interests, policies that make it harder, not easier to vote, and a system of gerrymandering where politicians get to select their voters, rather than voters selected their elected officials. 

“But that means if we want a better politics — and I’m addressing the American people now — if we want a better politics, it’s not enough just to change a congressman or change a senator or even change a President.  We have to change the system to reflect our better selves.  I think we’ve got to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around.  (Applause.)  Let a bipartisan group do it.  (Applause.)

“We have to reduce the influence of money in our politics, so that a handful of families or hidden interests can’t bankroll our elections.  (Applause.)  And if our existing approach to campaign finance reform can’t pass muster in the courts, we need to work together to find a real solution — because it’s a problem.  And most of you don’t like raising money.  I know; I’ve done it.  (Applause.)  We’ve got to make it easier to vote, not harder.  (Applause.)  We need to modernize it for the way we live now.  (Applause.)  This is America:  We want to make it easier for people to participate.  And over the course of this year, I intend to travel the country to push for reforms that do just that.

“But I can’t do these things on my own.  (Applause.)  Changes in our political process — in not just who gets elected, but how they get elected — that will only happen when the American people demand it.  It depends on you.  That’s what’s meant by a government of, by, and for the people.”

Evoking President Dwight Eisenhower’s warning of the impending threat of the military-industrial complex to democracy, Obama said:

“What I’m suggesting is hard.  It’s a lot easier to be cynical; to accept that change is not possible, and politics is hopeless, and the problem is all the folks who are elected don’t care, and to believe that our voices and actions don’t matter.  But if we give up now, then we forsake a better future.  Those with money and power will gain greater control over the decisions that could send a young soldier to war, or allow another economic disaster, or roll back the equal rights and voting rights that generations of Americans have fought, even died, to secure.  And then, as frustration grows, there will be voices urging us to fall back into our respective tribes, to scapegoat fellow citizens who don’t look like us, or pray like us, or vote like we do, or share the same background.

“We can’t afford to go down that path.  It won’t deliver the economy we want.  It will not produce the security we want.  But most of all, it contradicts everything that makes us the envy of the world.

After attending the White House Kids’ “State Dinner” as part of Let’s Move! and hearing the President and First Lady’s challenge for kids to make a difference in their own communities, 12-year old Braeden Mannering of Bear, DE, started his own nonprofit, Brae’s Brown Bags (3B), which provides healthy food to homeless and low-income individuals in his community. His mission is also to raise awareness about the problems of food insecurity and poverty, and to empower and inspire youth across the nation to become part of the solution. © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
After attending the White House Kids’ “State Dinner” as part of Let’s Move! and hearing the President and First Lady’s challenge for kids to make a difference in their own communities, 12-year old Braeden Mannering of Bear, DE, started his own nonprofit, Brae’s Brown Bags (3B), which provides healthy food to homeless and low-income individuals in his community. His mission is also to raise awareness about the problems of food insecurity and poverty, and to empower and inspire youth across the nation to become part of the solution. © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“So, my fellow Americans, whatever you may believe, whether you prefer one party or no party, whether you supported my agenda or fought as hard as you could against it — our collective futures depends on your willingness to uphold your duties as a citizen.  To vote.  To speak out.  To stand up for others, especially the weak, especially the vulnerable, knowing that each of us is only here because somebody, somewhere, stood up for us. (Applause.)  We need every American to stay active in our public life — and not just during election time — so that our public life reflects the goodness and the decency that I see in the American people every single day.”  

Obama began the speech veritably skipping over the big legislative items that remain to be done, that a President would normally lay out for Congress in the State of the Union, but showed his recognition that a Republican Congress that has obstructed for seven years is  unlikely to undertake anything significant in the mere 80 days the Republicans have scheduled to be in session during this election year. Still, they tripped over the tongue: immigration reform, criminal justice, gun safety, finally shuttering Guantanamo prison as he has tried to do since his first day in office. He held out some hope that the Republicans might support criminal justice reform and the Trans Pacific Partnership because these align with the Republicans’ corporate sponsors’ agenda and got big applause from the right when he said there are regulations that are outdated.

But then he came back with, “But after years now of record corporate profits, working families won’t get more opportunity or bigger paychecks just by letting big banks or big oil or hedge funds make their own rules at everybody else’s expense.  Middle-class families are not going to feel more secure because we allowed attacks on collective bargaining to go unanswered.  Food Stamp recipients did not cause the financial crisis; recklessness on Wall Street did.  (Applause.)  Immigrants aren’t the principal reason wages haven’t gone up; those decisions are made in the boardrooms that all too often put quarterly earnings over long-term returns.  It’s sure not the average family watching tonight that avoids paying taxes through offshore accounts… in this In new economy, workers and start-ups and small businesses need more of a voice, not less.  The rules should work for them.”

Then he proceeded to lay out a clear-eyed, realistic vision of what could happen, what must happen in light of the realities in which we live – framed by economic and social change that is happening whether or not people accept it, and, yes, terrorism.

Making it clear he does not intend to be a lame-duck president, frittering away the last year of his presidency, he listed specific programs that he hopes to see action on – the most significant being a “moonshot”-style initiative to marshal resources and research through the National Institutes of Health to cure cancer, naming Vice President Joe Biden, who lost his son Beau Biden to cancer months ago, to head it.

Similarly, citing the dramatic gains in developing clean, renewable energy, he hinted at a carbon tax to accelerate the transition away from old, dirtier energy sources, and move toward putting a price on carbon.  “Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future — especially in communities that rely on fossil fuels.”

He listed a number of education initiatives including:  providing Pre-K for all; offering every student the hands-on computer science and math classes “that make them job-ready on day one”; “recruit and support more great teachers for our kids”; make college affordable for every American; provide two years of community college at no cost for every responsible student.

And noting that despite the improvements in the economy, so many Americans feel left behind and fearful of the changes swirling about them, he focused on easing the economic security of the beleaguered middle class, saying “we must strengthen, not weaken Social Security and Medicare.” Also, “make [retirement] benefits portable and protect against losses;” and “promote economic security by offering retraining in the event of job loss and wage insurance.” 

Among the issues glossed over, clearly mindful that the Republican-dominated Congress would not act, was reference to gun violence prevention measures or the executive orders he announced in absence of any Congressional action. He simply included “protecting our kids from gun violence” in the list of unfinished items of concern. The camera did not even have time to pan to the empty chair left between First Lady Michelle Obama and Connecticut Governor Daniel P. Malloy, left for the countless thousands victims of gun violence.

“We leave one seat empty in the First Lady’s State of the Union Guest Box for the victims of gun violence who no longer have a voice – because they need the rest of us to speak for them,” the White House stated prior to the address. “To tell their stories. To honor their memory. To support the Americans whose lives have been forever changed by the terrible ripple effect of gun violence – survivors who’ve had to learn to live with a disability, or without the love of their life. To remind every single one of our representatives that it’s their responsibility to do something about this.”

He gave a steely, no-nonsense declaration of America’s military strength and leadership in the world, and its commitment to defend Americans and prosecute terrorists.

            “No nation attacks us directly, or our allies, because they know that’s the path to ruin.  Surveys show our standing around the world is higher than when I was elected to this office, and when it comes to every important international issue, people of the world do not look to Beijing or Moscow to lead — they call us.

“I know this is a dangerous time.  But that’s not primarily because of some looming superpower out there, and certainly not because of diminished American strength.  In today’s world, we’re threatened less by evil empires and more by failing states.”

But he affirmed the success of the so-called Obama Doctrine, elevating diplomacy over a shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later strategy, particularly with the Iran nuclear agreement and in opening up Cuba after 50 years of fruitless isolation that did not produce a democratic Cuba, and glossed over the success in leading the way to a historic Climate Action Agreement signed by 196 countries.

And with a clear arrow sent in the direction of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, and the extreme rhetoric of the Republican presidential candidates, he warned, “But as we focus on destroying ISIL, over-the-top claims that this is World War III just play into their hands.  Masses of fighters on the back of pickup trucks, twisted souls plotting in apartments or garages — they pose an enormous danger to civilians; they have to be stopped.  But they do not threaten our national existence.  That is the story ISIL wants to tell.  That’s the kind of propaganda they use to recruit.” 

Obama could have crowed more than he did in saying,With nearly 10,000 air strikes, we’re taking out their leadership, their oil, their training camps, their weapons.  We’re training, arming, and supporting forces who are steadily reclaiming territory in Iraq and Syria.” By some reports, ISIL has lost control over 40% of the territory it had held at its peak, but Obama did not mention this.

But he challenged Congress to act instead of criticize: “If this Congress is serious about winning this war, and wants to send a message to our troops and the world, authorize the use of military force against ISIL.  Take a vote.”

“The world will look to us to help solve these problems, and our answer needs to be more than tough talk or calls to carpet-bomb civilians.  That may work as a TV sound bite, but it doesn’t pass muster on the world stage.”

“The point is American leadership in the 21st century is not a choice between ignoring the rest of the world — except when we kill terrorists — or occupying and rebuilding whatever society is unraveling.  Leadership means a wise application of military power, and rallying the world behind causes that are right.  It means seeing our foreign assistance as a part of our national security, not something separate, not charity.”

“When politicians insult Muslims, whether abroad or our fellow citizens, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid is called names, that doesn’t make us safer.  That’s not telling it like it is.  It’s just wrong.  It diminishes us in the eyes of the world.  It makes it harder to achieve our goals.  It betrays who we are as a country.”

President Obama signs autographs after finishing the State of the Union Address, with Congressman Steve Israel © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
President Obama signs autographs after finishing the State of the Union Address, with Congressman Steve Israel © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Obama’s State of the Union message, ending with the riveting phrase so well placed at the end –  resounded like the Obama of 2008 and 2009 – the themes and tones of unity and his confidence in the spirit of the American people and the values that underlie this nation still dominant, his passion, energy and enthusiasm for his role as President and Commander-in-Chief roaring to the surface. But instead of being overtaken by cynicism under the unprecedented personal attacks and disrespect he has been shown since the very first State of the Union address in 2009, Obama seemed incredibly relaxed and comfortable in his own skin, still filled with optimism, excitement, if sharpened by his experience:

He described America’s spirit of discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship, its diversity and cherished freedom.

“That’s the America I know.  That’s the country we love.   Clear-eyed.  Big-hearted.  Undaunted by challenge.  Optimistic that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.  (Applause.)  That’s what makes me so hopeful about our future.  I believe in change because I believe in you, the American people.

“And that’s why I stand here confident as I have ever been that the State of our Union is strong.”

See the speech, highlighted. 

See also: See Who Will Be Guests in First Lady’s Box for Obama’s Final State of the Union Address

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© 2015 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go towww.news-photos-features.com,  

Obama to Sign Every Student Succeeds Act, Replacing No Child Left Behind

High School graduation. Congress has passed the Every Student Succeeds Act which is intended to improve upon No Child Left Behind © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
High School graduation. Congress has passed the Every Student Succeeds Act which is intended to improve upon No Child Left Behind © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The Senate voted 85-12 today to pass the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which would finally replace the badly broken No Child Left Behind law. The House passed this bill last week 359-64 (with every Democrat voting yes),

The White House announced that President Obama  will deliver remarks and sign the Every Student Succeeds Act tomorrow, Dec. 10.

“This bipartisan bill will cement the progress made in elementary and secondary education over the last seven years and fix the No Child Left Behind Act to reduce over-testing and one-size-fits-all federal mandates,” the White House stated.

The bill was sponsored in the Senate by Patty Murray (D-WA), who wrote, “For years, I’ve heard from students, parents, teachers, and small business owners about the need to fix the broken No Child Left Behind law. It wasn’t working for our kids, it wasn’t working for our schools, and it wasn’t working for our state. So when I became the top Democrat on the Senate Education Committee this year, I got to work, and I wasn’t going to stop until this broken law was fixed. It wasn’t easy in this Republican Congress, but I made it clear that I was willing to work with anyone, from any party, who was willing to put students and their education above partisanship and politics.

It will:

  • Reduce reliance on high-stakes testing – No Child Left Behind over-emphasized test scores to judge how students and schools were performing. The new law will allow students and teachers to spend less time on test prep​ and more time on learning. ​
  • ​Expand access to preschool programs so more kids can start kindergarten on strong footing.​
  • End the need for state waivers and “fail” letters – No Child Left Behind‘s one-size-fits-all mandates were so burdensome that the Obama administration began giving states waivers from the law’s requirements, which otherwise would have resulted in most schools being labeled as “failing.” ESSA ends the need for these state waivers, which will give students, parents, and teachers some much-needed certainty about how ​schools are​​ performing.​

Help ensure all students have access to a good education – For so many Americans, a good education can be a ticket to the middle class. ESSA will help ensure all students have access to a quality education, no matter their ZIP code or their background.

The White House issued a Fact Sheet on the background of the Every Student Succeeds Act, providing more detail:

FACT SHEET: Congress Acts to Fix No Child Left Behind

“We are a place that believes every child, no matter where they come from, can grow up to be anything they want… And I’m confident that if we fix No Child Left Behind, if we continue to reform American education, continue to invest in our children’s future, that’s the America we will always be.”– Remarks by the President on the No Child Left Behind Act, March 14, 2011, Kenmore Middle School, Arlington, Virginia

ESSA rejects the overuse of standardized tests and one-size-fits-all mandates on our schools, ensures that our education system will prepare every child to graduate from high school ready for college and careers, and provides more children access to high-quality state preschool programs.

The bipartisan bill passed by the House includes many of the key reforms the Administration has called on Congress to enact and encouraged states and districts to adopt in exchange for waivers offering relief from the more onerous provisions of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The bill helps ensure educational opportunity for all students by:

  • Holding all students to high academic standards that prepare them for success in college and careers.
  • Ensuring accountability by guaranteeing that when students fall behind, states redirect resources into what works to help them and their schools improve, with a particular focus on the very lowest-performing schools, high schools with high dropout rates, and schools with achievement gaps.
  • Empowering state and local decision-makers to develop their own strong systems for school improvement based upon evidence, rather than imposing cookie-cutter federal solutions like the No Child Left Behind Act did.
  • Reducing the often onerous burden of testing on students and teachers, making sure that tests don’t crowd out teaching and learning, without sacrificing clear, annual information parents and educators need to make sure our children are learning.
  • Providing more children access to high-quality preschool.
  • Establishing new resources for proven strategies that will spur reform and drive opportunity and better outcomes for America’s students.

In recognition of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)’s legacy as a civil rights law, the bipartisan bill upholds critical protections for America’s disadvantaged students. It ensures that states and school districts will hold schools to account for the progress of all students and prescribes meaningful reforms to remedy underperformance in those schools failing to serve all students. It excludes harmful “portability” provisions that would siphon funds away from the students and schools most in need, and maintains dedicated resources and supports for America’s vulnerable children – including students with disabilities, English Learners, Native American students, homeless children, neglected and delinquent children, and migrant and seasonal farmworker children. It also ensures that states and districts continue the work they’ve begun this year to ensure that all students – including students from low-income families and students of color – have equitable access to excellent educators.

EMBRACING THE ADMINISTRATION’S PRINCIPLES FOR REFORM

College and Career-Ready Standards for America’s Learners: The bill affirms the path taken by 48 states and the District of Columbia to hold all students to challenging academic content standards that will prepare them to graduate from high school prepared for success in college and the workforce. In 2008, America’s governors and state education officials came together to develop a new set of college- and career-ready standards for their schools. The Obama Administration supported those efforts through its Race to the Top grant program and the federal-state partnership established in its ESEA flexibility agreements.

Rigorous Accountability for All Students: Consistent with the Administration’s legislative proposals and the policies in place under the Administration’s ESEA flexibility agreements, the bill builds on the federal-state partnerships in place in over 40 states to require meaningful goals for the progress of all students, and to ensure that every student subgroup makes gains toward college and career-readiness. States must set ambitious targets to close student achievement and graduation rate gaps among subgroups of students in order to meet their goals. In schools where too many students consistently fail to reach the goals and other indicators set by the state, school districts will ensure they receive tailored interventions and supports proportionate to the needs of those schools and the students they serve.

Reform and Resources for America’s Struggling Schools and Students: The bill will target resources, attention, and effort to make gains for our students attending schools most in need of help. Consistent with the policies in place under the Administration’s ESEA flexibility agreements, the bill moves away from NCLB’s one-size-fits-all accountability and ensures that states undertake reforms in their lowest performing schools, in high schools with high dropout rates, and in schools where subgroups are falling behind. It includes provisions that would require districts to use evidence-based models to support whole-school interventions in the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools and schools where more than a third of high school students do not graduate on time, and includes dedicated funding to support interventions in these schools. In schools where subgroups of students persistently underperform, school districts must mount targeted interventions and supports to narrow gaps and improve student achievement. If such schools are not showing improvement, the state will ensure more rigorous strategies are put in place. Moreover, the Department of Education has the authority it needs to ensure that states carry out their responsibilities.

New Incentives to Improve Opportunities and Outcomes for Students: The bill includes initiatives modeled after the Administration’s programs to:

  • Establish or expand access to high-quality, state-funded preschool for children from low- and moderate-income families, building from the Administration’s Preschool Development Grants program.
  • Develop, refine, and replicate innovative and ambitious reforms to close the achievement gap in America’s schools, similar to the Administration’s existing Investing in Innovation (i3) program.
  • Expand incentives to prepare, develop, and advance effective teachers and principals in America’s schools.
  • Leverage resources to address the significant challenges faced by students and families living in high-poverty communities through the Promise Neighborhoodseffort, supporting a full continuum of services from early learning through college.
  • Expand support for high-performing public charter schools for high-need students.

A Smart and Balanced Approach to Testing: The bill maintains important statewide assessments to ensure that teachers and parents can mark the progress and performance of their children every year, from third to eighth grade and once in high school. The bill encourages a smarter approach to testing by moving away from a sole focus on standardized tests to drive decisions around the quality of schools, and by allowing for the use of multiple measures of student learning and progress, along with other indicators of student success to make school accountability decisions. It also includes provisions consistent with the Administration’s principles around reducing the amount of classroom time spent on standardized testing, including support for state efforts to audit and streamline their current assessment systems.

Promoting Equity in State and Local Funding: The Administration has called repeatedly for states and school districts to more equitably distribute state and local dollars to schools with the greatest need. The bill includes a pilot program – similar to a proposal put forward by the Administration this year in the FY16 budget – that provides for weighted student funding. Under the pilot, districts must demonstrate a commitment to equitable distribution of state and local dollars—based on actual per-pupil expenditures—to their highest poverty schools. In exchange, districts would be allowed to allocate and use Title I and other federal formula funds in a more flexible manner to support comprehensive plans that improve achievement and outcomes for their neediest students. The bill also includes provisions that require reporting on actual school-level expenditures, allowing the public for the first time to see the amount of federal, state, and local funding distributed to each and every school.  The bill rejects so-called “portability” provisions in the House-passed bill that would have allowed states to shift federal funds away from the schools that need them most.

See also:

Hate over-testing? NYS’s Common Core Task Force needs to hear from you

Back to the drawing board for nation’s schools wrestling with Common Core

Teaching in America: Education reform should start with empowering teachers

OMB: Obama Would Veto GOP-Led Land Grab, ‘Red River Private Property Protection Act’

GOPWatch: This is who they are. Republican Thornberry (TX) and 7 cosponsors are pushing the “Red River Private Property Protection Act”, which would reduce federal control of federally owned lands. Essentially, it is a land grab to benefit specific donors. 

The OMB (Office of Management and Budget) says President Obama would veto. Here’s why:

The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 2130, which would set aside existing Federal surveys, divest the Secretary of the Interior of responsibility as surveyor of record for the United States, and transfer lands out of Federal ownership without ensuring a fair return to the taxpayer.

H.R. 2130 would set aside existing Federal surveys of land along the Red River in Texas and would require the Secretary to commission and to accept, without Federal participation, surveys of the land approved by the Texas General Land Office. This legislation would require the Secretary to delegate her authority for determining Federal estate to a state agency, would be counter to nearly 100 years of settled law, and could reduce mineral revenue opportunities for the Kiowa, Comanche, and Apache Tribes and the State of Oklahoma.

The Administration shares the goal of providing legal certainty to property owners along the Red River, but strongly opposes the approach of voiding or nullifying Federal surveys.

If the President were presented with H.R. 2130, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.

 

OMB: Obama Would Veto Latest Effort to Dismantle Obamacare, McConnell’s ‘Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act’

 

They’re at it again! For like the 60th time, Republicans are pushing to dismantle Obamacare. 

The latest is the sickly named “Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act of 2015” sponsored by none other than that Darth Vader of anything that actually helps people, the Senate Leader himself, Sen. Mitch McConnell. 

The only thing standing in the way is President Obama’s veto, which the Office of Management & Budget (OMB) says he would. 

Here’s how the OMB explains the Administration’s position:

The Administration strongly opposes Senate passage of the Senate amendment to H.R. 3762.  By repealing numerous, key elements of current law, this legislation would take away critical benefits and health care coverage from hard-working middle‑class families.  The bill also would remove policies that are expected to help slow the growth in health care costs and that have improved the quality of care patients receive.  The Senate amendment to H.R. 3762 detracts from the work the Congress could be doing to foster job creation and economic growth.

The Affordable Care Act is working and is fully integrated into an improved American health care system.  Discrimination based on pre-existing conditions is a thing of the past.  And under the law, health care prices have grown at the slowest rate in 50 years, benefiting all Americans.

Repealing key elements of the Affordable Care Act would result in millions of individuals remaining uninsured or losing the insurance they have today.  An estimated 17.6 million Americans gained coverage as several of the Affordable Care Act’s coverage provisions have taken effect – 15.3 million since the beginning of the first open enrollment in October 2013.  The Senate amendment to H.R. 3762 would roll back coverage gains and would cost millions of hard-working middle-class families the security of affordable health coverage they deserve.

Repealing the health care law would have implications far beyond these Americans who have or will gain insurance.  More than 150 million Americans with employer-based insurance would be at risk of higher premiums and lower wages, or losing their coverage altogether.  It would raise taxes on certain middle‑class families.  The Senate amendment to H.R. 3762 also would defund the Prevention and Public Health Fund, limit women’s health care choices, and disproportionately impact low-income individuals.

This legislation is being considered by the Senate just days ahead of the December 15 deadline for Marketplace coverage that starts on January 1, 2016. Rather than refighting old political battles by once again voting to repeal basic protections that provide security for the middle class, Members of Congress should be working together to grow the economy, strengthen middle‑class families, and create new jobs.

If the President were presented with H.R. 3762, as amended by the Senate amendment, he would veto the bill.

Senate Republicans Push Two Resolutions to Nullify Clean Power Plan; Obama Vows Veto

A majority of Americans favor cutting carbon emissions to protect air and water and address the impacts of climate change and global warning. 400,000 joined the People's Climate March in New York City in 2014. Republicans in Congress are trying to nullify Obama's Clean Power Plan in advance of the Climate Summit in Paris © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
A majority of Americans favor cutting carbon emissions to protect air and water and address the impacts of climate change and global warning. 400,000 joined the People’s Climate March in New York City in 2014. Republicans in Congress are trying to nullify Obama’s Clean Power Plan in advance of the Climate Summit in Paris © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The Office of Management & Budget is vowing that President Obama would veto two resolutions proposed by Senate Republicans intended to nullify his Clean Power Plan and undermine the international climate summit that gets underway in December in Paris.

“Senate Leader, and King Coal cohort, Mitch McConnell and his fellow Senate coal cronies will introduce two resolutions via the Congressional Review Act, a rarely used, filibuster-proof legislative scheme that only requires a simple majority to pass,” writes Anthony Rogers-Wright of Environmental Action.

“Even though President Obama has promised to veto any resolution that attempts to block his climate agenda, senators from coal-y rolling states are pushing ahead. Why the rush if they can’t get this legislation signed into law, you ask? Their real agenda is to reduce international confidence in the president’s ability to deliver on U.S. climate commitments2 – it’s a classic case of Paris sabotage. Should these senators succeed, it would send the wrong message to the world and reduce the U.S.’s standing as a global leader.”

Sally King added, “Moments after the Clean Power Plan was formally published last month, opponents of the rule filed suit to strike it down. In a congressional hearing last month the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) critics continued to claim the plan will create economic catastrophe and violates the constitution. Although they can’t stop Obama’s plan, they’re hoping that the clamor will embolden governors and state policymakers to resist complying with the rule.

“But these claims should be taken for what they are: noise. The EPA’s flexible, cost-minimizing approach to reducing carbon pollution from power plants is consistent with the Clean Air Act and the Constitution.”

The OMB explains its objections to the resolutions and why the President would veto:

S.J.Res. 23 – Disapproving EPA Rule on Greenhouse Gas Emissions from New, Modified, and Reconstructed Electric Utility Generating Units

(Sen. McConnell, R-KY, and 47 cosponsors)

The Administration strongly opposes S.J.Res. 23, which would undermine the public health protections of the Clean Air Act (CAA) and stop critical U.S. efforts to reduce dangerous carbon pollution from power plants.  In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that the CAA gives the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the authority to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution.  In 2009, EPA determined that GHG pollution threatens Americans’ health and welfare by leading to long-lasting changes to the climate that can, and are already, having a range of negative effects on human health and the environment.  This finding is consistent with conclusions of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and numerous other national and international scientific bodies.  Power plants account for roughly one-third of all domestic GHG emissions.  While the United States limits dangerous emissions of arsenic, mercury, lead, particulate matter, and ozone precursor pollution from power plants, the Carbon Pollution Standards and the Clean Power Plan put into place the first national limits on power plant carbon pollution.  The Carbon Pollution Standards will ensure that new, modified, and reconstructed power plants deploy available systems of emission reduction to reduce carbon pollution.

S.J.Res. 23 would nullify carbon pollution standards for future power plants and power plants undertaking significant modifications or reconstruction, thus slowing our country’s transition to cleaner, cutting-edge power generation technologies.  Most importantly, the resolution could enable continued build-out of outdated, high-polluting, and long-lived power generation infrastructure and impede efforts to reduce carbon pollution from new and modified power plants – when the need to act, and to act quickly, to mitigate climate change impacts on American communities has never been more clear.

Since it was enacted in 1970, and amended in 1977 and 1990, each time with strong bipartisan support, the CAA has improved the Nation’s air quality and protected public health. Over that same period of time, the economy has tripled in size while emissions of key pollutants have decreased by more than 70 percent.  Forty-five years of clean air regulation have shown that a strong economy and strong environmental and public health protection go hand-in-hand.

Because S.J.Res. 23 threatens the health and economic welfare of future generations by blocking important standards to reduce carbon pollution from the power sector that take a flexible, common sense approach to addressing carbon pollution, if the President were presented with S.J.Res. 23, he would veto the bill.

S.J.Res. 24 – Disapproving EPA Rule on Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Electric Utility Generating Units

(Sen. Capito, R-WV, and 48 cosponsors)

The Administration strongly opposes S.J.Res. 24, which would undermine the public health protections of the Clean Air Act (CAA) and stop critical U.S. efforts to reduce dangerous carbon pollution from power plants.  In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that the CAA gives the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the authority to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution.  In 2009, EPA determined that GHG pollution threatens Americans’ health and welfare by leading to long-lasting changes to the climate that can, and are already, having a range of negative effects on human health and the environment.  This finding is consistent with conclusions of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and numerous other national and international scientific bodies.  Power plants account for roughly one-third of all domestic GHG emissions.  While the United States limits dangerous emissions of arsenic, mercury, lead, particulate matter, and ozone precursor pollution from power plants, the Clean Power Plan and the Carbon Pollution Standards put into place the first national limits on power plant carbon pollution.  The Clean Power Plan empowers States to cost-effectively reduce emissions from existing sources and provides States and power plants a great deal of flexibility in meeting the requirements.  EPA expects that under the Clean Power Plan, by 2030, carbon pollution from power plants will be reduced by 32 percent from 2005 levels.

By nullifying the Clean Power Plan, S.J.Res. 24 seeks to block progress towards cleaner energy, eliminating public health and other benefits of up to $54 billion per year by 2030, including thousands fewer premature deaths from air pollution and tens of thousands of fewer childhood asthma attacks each year.  Most importantly, the resolution would impede efforts to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants – the largest source of carbon pollution in the country – when the need to act, and to act quickly, to mitigate climate change impacts on American communities has never been more clear.

Since it was enacted in 1970, and amended in 1977 and 1990, each time with strong bipartisan support, the CAA has improved the Nation’s air quality and protected public health.  Over that same period of time, the economy has tripled in size while emissions of key pollutants have decreased by more than 70 percent.  Forty-five years of clean air regulation have shown that a strong economy and strong environmental and public health protection go hand-in-hand.

Because S.J.Res. 24 threatens the health and economic welfare of future generations by blocking important standards to reduce carbon pollution from the power sector that take a flexible, common sense approach to addressing carbon pollution, if the President were presented with S.J.Res. 24, he would veto the bill.

 

 

OMB: Obama Would Veto 2 Laws Proposed by Senate Republicans to Weaken Clean Water Protections

Capitol Building, Washington DC © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Capitol Building, Washington DC © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

President Obama would veto two laws coming out of the Senate which would weaken federal Clean Water Act protections, according to The Office of Management and Budget. The OMB has issued Statements of Administration Policy regarding S. 1140, the Orwellian named “Federal Water Quality Protection Act” sponsored by Sen. Barrasso, R-WY, and 46 co-sponsors) and S.J.Res. 22 – Disapproving EPA/Army Rule on Waters of the United States being proposed by Sen. Ernst, R-IA, and 49 cosponsors, that state the President would veto the laws if they make it to his desk.

 S. 1140″Federal Water Quality Protection Act”

The Administration strongly opposes S. 1140, which would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of the Army (Army) to withdraw and re-propose specified regulations needed to clarify the jurisdictional boundaries of the Clean Water Act (CWA).  The agencies’ rulemaking, grounded in science and the law, is essential to ensure clean water for future generations, and is responsive to calls for rulemaking  from the Congress, industry, and community stakeholders as well as decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court.  The final rule has been through an extensive public engagement process.

Clean water is vital for the success of the Nation’s businesses, agriculture, energy development, and the health of our communities.  More than one in three Americans get their drinking water from rivers, lakes, and reservoirs that are at risk of pollution from upstream sources.  The protection of wetlands is also vital for hunting and fishing.  When Congress passed the CWA in 1972 to restore the Nation’s waters, it recognized that to have healthy communities downstream, we need to protect the smaller streams and wetlands upstream.

Clarifying the scope of the CWA helps to protect clean water, safeguard public health, and strengthen the economy.  Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006 focused on specific jurisdictional determinations and rejected the analytical approach that the Army Corps of Engineers used for those determinations, but did not invalidate the underlying regulation.  This has created ongoing questions and uncertainty about how the regulation is applied consistent with the Court’s decisions.  The final rule was developed to address this uncertainty.

If S. 1140 were enacted, any revisions to the CWA regulations would require the agencies to define waters of the United States in a manner inconsistent with the CWA as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court, resulting in more confusion, uncertainty, and inconsistency.

S.1140 would require the agencies to expend scarce resources to duplicate the transparent rulemaking process just completed, which involved extensive public outreach and participation, including over 400 public meetings, and 1 million public comments.  The agencies met with States, municipalities, small businesses, farmers, ranchers, miners, foresters, conservation groups, and many others to solicit input and reflect that input in a final rule.  A regulation as prescribed in S. 1140 would raise costs for landowners and businesses seeking a CWA permit and increase delays in the permit process.  S. 1140 also would reduce protection of the Nation’s water quality and result in higher drinking water treatment costs, increased contamination of fish and shellfish, loss of recreational opportunities including hunting and fishing, and more frequent algal blooms that choke rivers and lakes and make waters unhealthy as a drinking water source or to swim and fish in.  Wetlands serve as a natural buffer to reduce flooding, and by ignoring this important role, S.1140 also would lead to more frequent and more damaging losses from floods.  Families, communities, and businesses will have no choice but to pay for increased flood protection that natural wetlands currently provide for free.

If the President were presented with S. 1140, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.

S.J.Res. 22 – Disapproving EPA/Army Rule on Waters of the United States

The Administration strongly opposes S.J.Res. 22, which would nullify a specified Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of the Army (Army) final rule clarifying the jurisdictional boundaries of the Clean Water Act (CWA).  The agencies’ rulemaking,  grounded in science and the law, is essential to ensure clean water for future generations, and is responsive to calls for rulemaking from the Congress, industry, and community stakeholders as well as decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court.  The final rule has been through an extensive public engagement process.

Clean water is vital for the success of the Nation’s businesses, agriculture, energy development, and the health of our communities.  More than one in three Americans get their drinking water from rivers, lakes, and reservoirs that are at risk of pollution from upstream sources.  The protection of wetlands is also vital for hunting and fishing.  When Congress passed the CWA in 1972 to restore the Nation’s waters, it recognized that to have healthy communities downstream, we need to protect the smaller streams and wetlands upstream.

Clarifying the scope of the CWA helps to protect clean water, safeguard public health, and strengthen the economy.  Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006 focused on specific jurisdictional determinations and rejected the analytical approach that the Army Corps of Engineers used for those determinations, but did not invalidate the underlying regulation.  This has created ongoing questions and uncertainty about how the regulation is applied consistent with the Court’s decisions.  The final rule was developed to address this uncertainty and it should remain in place.

If enacted, S.J.Res. 22 would nullify years of work and deny businesses and communities the regulatory certainty needed to invest in projects that rely on clean water.  EPA and Army have sought the views of and listened carefully to the public throughout the extensive public engagement process for this rule.

Simply put, S.J.Res. 22 is not an act of good governance.  It would sow confusion and invite conflict at a time when our communities and businesses need clarity and certainty around clean water regulation.

If the President were presented with S.J.Res. 22, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.

 

 

OMB: Obama Administration Would Veto ‘Retail Investor Protection Act’

The Office of Management and Budget has issued a Statement of Administration Policy regarding HR 1090, the “Retail Investor Protection Act” sponsored by Rep. Wagner (R-MO) and 34 co-sponsors, because as is typical of such bills that have come from the Republican Majority, their title is the very opposite of their actual intent:

The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 1090 because the bill would derail an important Department of Labor rulemaking critical to protecting Americans’ hard-earned savings and preserving their retirement security.

H.R. 1090 prohibits Labor from issuing a rule to protect investors until the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) acts.  It also impinges on the SEC’s ability to move forward with its own rulemaking by requiring the SEC to take the misguided step of providing definitive findings before promulgating a rule.

Further, the bill ignores the fact that significant study has already been conducted by both agencies and that Labor has had extensive engagement with the public, industry, and numerous stakeholders in its rulemaking process.  This includes more than 140 days of public comment period, four days of public hearings, and approximately 100 meetings with stakeholders after the proposal was published in April.  Moreover, Labor and the SEC are already working closely to ensure the smooth operation of the proposed safeguards, and this legislation would hamper effective coordination between the two agencies.

Under existing, outdated rules, savers cannot count on receiving the unbiased advice that they need and expect.  This bill would effectively block action to protect working and middle-class families from the harmful conflicts of interest that lead to biased advice.  The Council of Economic Advisers estimates that these conflicts cost savers $17 billion every year.

The Administration is committed to ensuring that American workers and retirees are able to receive advice about how to invest their money in safe, secure, and transparent financial products that are free from harmful conflicts of interest.  Labor’s ongoing rulemaking is designed to protect the retirement savings of millions of workers and retirees by ensuring that paid advisors and other entities do not place their own financial interests over those of their customers.  This legislation puts a roadblock in the way of preventing such harmful conflicts, which hurts businesses, consumers, and retirees and their families.

If the President were presented with H.R. 1090, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.

(www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legislative/sap/114/saphr1090r_20151026.pdf)

 

Epidemic of Gun Deaths Embolden Dems to Call for Universal Background Checks But More is Needed

Congressman Steve Israel (D-Long Island) is one of the Democrats stepping up calls for Congress to vote on a bill mandating universal background checks to obtain a gun © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Congressman Steve Israel (D-Long Island) is one of the Democrats stepping up calls for Congress to vote on a bill mandating universal background checks to obtain a gun © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Gun violence prevention advocates won one victory in May – Oregon passed universal background checks – but suffered a bigger loss, as Texas voted to allow concealed carry of guns on campuses of public colleges across the state. This is despite the fact that the most famous thing to happen at the University of Texas-Austin was the first mass shooting in America, on August 1, 1966, when Charles Whitman climbed the University of Texas Tower and used a sniper to kill 16 and wound 31.

Ironically, Oregon, which allows concealed carry on college campuses, just this month was the setting for the latest campus massacre.

Also this month, a six year old murdered his three-year old sibling with his father’s gun, kept loaded, atop their refrigerator.

Indeed, roughly every week, a toddler is killed or kills with a gun. How many more are added to the list, provided in mid-April by Colette Martin, of Moms Demand Action, which had already produced 11 children under the age of 15 who had been shot accidentally so far that month.

“It’s shocking to me – as I investigate laws at states – because the federal is useless – depending on zipcode, leaving a loaded gun on a coffee table is either a crime or nothing,” Martin told a Gun Violence Prevention forum at Temple Beth-el of Great Neck, “That’s why we read stories every day that a child is shot accidentally. We are not talking suicide or domestic violence.”

Her list included 5 year olds shooting 2 year olds; a 15 year old in Brooklyn who shot himself in the chest; in Houston, a 5 year old was shot by 4 year old (the fourth in 3 weeks); a mom’s boyfriend, cleaning his gun, accidentally shot a 9 year old.

“The NRA won’t tell you but two children a week will die this way, through accidental gunshot wounds – many more hurt, life changing injuries – a pattern so predictable. Over 100 kids a year will be dead because someone didn’t store gun properly.

“Is there any product that kills that many kids that we’re not regulating?

“It should be a crime to leave a loaded gun accessible to children –a punishable crime. That is a glaring omission from New York’s Safe Act,” she says.

That’s also the basis for a proposed law in New York, Nicholas’ Law – named for a 12 year old killed by playing at friend’s house where unsecured loaded gun and friend shot him, accidentally.

Other legislative actions that need to happen nationally:

Repealing laws that ban pediatricians from raising questions about guns in the home and recommending they be locked up (such as in Florida).

Repealing Stand Your Ground (aka “License to Kill”), another law written by the NRA and ALEC (a front for the Koch Brothers) and spread like cancer among the states, starting in Florida under then-Governor Jeb Bush.

Changing the requirements to purchase and possess guns. Norman Siegel, a New York civil rights lawyer and former director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, in a letter to the New York Times in December proposed a nationwide state registration program, similar to motor vehicle registration. “Every two years the owner of a gun would be required to bring his or her weapon in for inspection and re-registration. If the owner no longer possesses the weapon, he or she should be required to explain what happened to the gun. Perhaps under such a program we, as a nation, can realistically ameliorate the problem of guns winding up in the hands of lawbreakers and/or the mentally ill.”

And for those who charge that gun registration is somehow violating 2nd Amendment rights, look to the oppressive Voter ID and registration requirements being passed around the country which effectively put barriers in front of citizens’ right to vote.

Moreover, gun rights fanatics have no problem cancelling out the First Amendment’s freedom of speech in banning pediatricians from discussing gun safety with their patients’ families.

Gun violence is not a 2nd amendment issue. It is a public health issue, and should be treated in the same way. And if anything violates the founding premise of this country, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” it is the outsized weight given to so-called gun rights which never actually existed.

“This family’s only child is gone. It’s not just a legislative change, it’s part of the cultural change – the social norming that has to happen as with drunk driving,” she says, referring to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and the way they insinuated a kind of moral code into everyday life.

Governor Cuomo seized upon the massacre Sandy Hook Elementary School as a rare moment when he could pass Safe Act.

But other states – the gun happy ones, the free-range ones, the Live Free or Die ones (and so they die) – have gone the other way – in Florida, doctors are banned (no matter the inconvenient First Amendment guaranteeing free speech, or even the Hippocratic oath) from even asking parents if there is a gun in the home, in order to urge safe storage to prevent such tragedies as Nicholas’ and the others, a move that is being copied by other states, prompting New York Times columnist Charles Blow to raise the question, “Has the NRA Won?”

And the real challenge is the latest move by the NRA in the bought-and-paid-for Congress: to force states with gun regulations to have “reciprocity” – essentially to make a gun permit like a drivers license – with states that have virtually no restrictions (and in the case of one Georgia town, which mandate every family have a gun) – in a blatant disregard of states rights, in yet another instance when hypocrisy rules the day if it is convenient.

“We have to fight reciprocity,” State Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel said during the forum. “Every state has their rights – who can own a gun. New York has strong laws, but in Vermont, you only need to be 16 years of age and have a drivers license and you can have a gun.” What reciprocity means is that if you have a gun permit in one state, you can have a gun – transfer guns, drive interstate (now illegal) – scary for someone like NY.” So if a state like Texas allows concealed guns everywhere (except the State House) with no questions asked, even a person with a mental condition, a veteran with PTSD or a domestic abuser, can bring their gun to New York.

As the level of gun violence has only escalated, the NRA has come back with more and more absurd statements (such as the time after a tragedy is no time to consider what to do about it), or a move to ease access to guns.

If anything gives lie to the absurdity, “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” and the even more absurd statement that the way to reduce gun violence is to make guns even more prevalent, it is the fact that gun violence kills 2500 children each year. You can also look to the murder of police officers, who are clearly “good guys” whose guns could not stop the bad guy who shot first.

In Chicago, just over Memorial Day weekend, 40 people were shot including a 4 year old girl, with nine dead, including,a 15-year old boy, Nation of Change reported.

“So far, there have been 18,760 gun incidents this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, resulting in 4,830 deaths and the death or injury of 249 children.”

There are practical things that can be done to significantly reduce the more than 30,000 gun deaths a year – that’s equivalent to a 9/11 a month – having nothing to do with violating the 2 nd Amendment or taking guns away from the ostensibly “law abiding” people (isn’t it odd that people are “law abiding” until they aren’t?)

But before we get into the long list of commonsense steps that should be taking immediately, without having any impact whatsoever on the so-called “law abiding” gunowners, there is this:

Gun Manufacturers Profit Incentive: Smart Guns

Much is made of the fact that the NRA, which is such an outsized powerhouse scaring the beejeebees out of politicians, serves the interests of gun manufacturers, not the ordinary members (a majority of whom support universal background checks and other commonsense measures).

In fact, the NRA was in favor of universal background checks until they were against them, and now, whenever there is a massacre, they call for more guns – armed guards at schools and churches, concealed carry at college campuses, in fact, everywhere but in Congress and Houses of Legislature.

So just like the corruption in FIFA won’t be rooted out politically, but when Nike and other sponsors exert their power, gun manufacturers have to see profit in being more socially conscious.

Jeb Bush speaking to 30,000 at the NRA convention, said Obama should be disarming ISIS rather than law-abiding Americans – the problem is that terrorists in the US have a clear shot at obtaining military-grade weapons and high-capacity ammo clips- while, in fact, DoD has radiofrequency controls in its military weapons so they can locate guns gone missing into the wrong hands. (Jeb! casually dismissed the Oregon shooting as “stuff happens”.)

Question is: why aren’t there ‘smart guns’ like ‘smart phones’ that can only be used by the person whose hand print is identified with the gun? Or, for that matter, a locater as a smart phone has when it is stolen, and can be located and disarmed remotely?

If the gun manufacturers would see themselves as, say, Apple Computers, coming out with the newest, latest gun that replaces the older gun, they could see big profits in sensible gun measure: namely, the same ID access that smart-phones now have: make the gun so that it can only be used by the owner. If the gun-owner is in fact law-abiding, they would have no problem with that, and would relish the idea of a gun not being snapped up by the “bad guy” (or a child) and used to kill their loved ones.

Think of the increased profits, if 100 million guns had to be replaced! Gun dealers could offer those nifty trade-in deals!

Change Tactics

The gun nuts have also long ceased being credible in arguing for “self-defense” and the “homespun, family values sport of hunting” when they refuse to allow a ban on military-grade assault weapons and high-capacity magazines that kill dozens in a blink of an eye. This is about the fantasy of being able to take down the government – something that the 2nd Amendment never envisioned, since it was intended to provide a defense for the fledgling democratic government in the absence of a standing army -like a National Guard.

It’s been 15 years since the Million Mom March in Washington DC (remember how they said if George W Bush were elected, there would be an office in the West Wing for the NRA? They were right.) Things clearly went downhill from there – for example, allowing the 1994 Assault Weapons ban to lapse.

Despite the rise of organizations like Moms Demand Action, Moms Rising, Americans for Responsible Solutions, Everytown and scores of others (typically, tragically, by family members like Richard Martinez whose lives have been forever destroyed by gun violence), Congress, in the pocket of the gun lobby, has refused to budge, and in the states, the reaction to what was considered the most heinous tragedy of all, the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, was to free up, not tighten, gun restrictions (New York’s Safe Act was the exception).

It’s time to change tactics and the dynamics.

Abortions are constitutionally protected but the anti-choice movement has been able to put all sorts of legal and financial impediments that make it impossible for women to exercise their Constitutionally protected rights.

The gun violence prevention advocates should adopt some of these methods. For example:

State requirements: Just as California laws regarding automobiles and the chemicals industry have forced those industries to change their manufacture to be more environmentally friendly, states could impose requirements on gun manufacturers that every gun be a smart-gun; increase taxes on ammunition (like they do on cigarettes) and fees on gun permits (like voting IDs)

Make gun manufacturers and dealers liable when their product is inappropriately used (as so many other manufacturers are – gun manufacturers are somehow exempted.)

Require gun owners to take out liability insurance so that victims’ families can be adequately compensated.

Institute laws making parents/guardians responsible for safe storage, and criminally liable if a child commits a crime with their gun. For example, no one questioned where the 15 year old Jared Michael Padgett, of Portland, Oregon, obtained the gun he used to kill freshman Emilio Hoffman and wound teacher Todd Rispler before killing himself. Or where 14 year old Jaylen Fryberg, a popular student at Marysville, Wash. high school,, got the .40-caliber handgun he used to kill a girl and strike four others in the head before turning his gun on himself and committing suicide. There were no consequences for whoever obtained the guns that these minors used to murder innocents.

Put a fee on ammunition and gun purchases to support a victims fund.

Boycott college campuses that allow guns: Parents should contact colleges and ask if guns are allowed, and if so, tell them you won’t allow your child to apply there.

“I am, a huge believer that the American people can fix this,” Martin says. “I’ve lost faith in Congress, lost faith in the federal government, lost faith in the NRA – I was never much of a fan, my father tore up his NRA card in1980s, it was apparent to him what they were about: politicizing, a money racket, they are not standing for his ideals.

“Most gun owners are not in NRA… 90% of legitimate legal gun owners don’t support NRA. Who is supporting the NRA? The gun manufacturers – Smith-Wesson, Baretta. It’s no mystery that’s who they serve – the NRA is a front for gun manufacturers.

“Their job is to fend off, violently, any regulation that will impact the sale of their product – every gun that ends up on the street, used in a crime, begins as a legal gun –it was first sold as a legal gun – no illegal gun manufacturing plant anywhere.”

(And every criminal or maniac who uses a gun starts off as a noncriminal, non-maniac. Actually, you could add that whenever there is a massacre – the more heinous that it is – gun sales go up because LaPierre warns that the government will finally confiscate guns.)

Colette adds, “I’m a gun owner and here’s the impact [the NY Safe Act] had on me (she gestures, zero). I don’t have AR 15s in my basement – New York by any measure has done a great job keeping its citizens safe -the illegal street variety and more difficult gun violence.

“I am here today to deal with children’s and guns –standard, practical storage protocols. If you have children and guns in house, lock one of them up,” she said, drawing a laugh.

“1/3 of families own at least one gun – it behooves us to ask how it is stored at home.”

But in the absence of law, there are more practical actions parents should take: “Before you allow your child to go for a playdate, ask are there guns in house That’s not political, but safety. That’s a house I don’t want my kid playing unattended

It’s no more offensive than asking if there is a pool, or a dog. It’s not easy to plan a funeral for a 12 year old – that’s inconvenient.

“How many of these parents whose kids were shot this month would do anything to go back in time and ask that question. It’s not political, not offensive- not out of order to ask about the safety.”

Martin also refutes the claim that safe storage of guns at home will somehow interfere with the ability (rare) to defend from an intruder. She says that evidence shows that it takes a gun owner “fractions of seconds” to get a gun out of a safebox and load it.

In August, Fox & friends did 5 part gun safety series and part 3 featured expert marksmen, firearms dealer and trainer Rob Pincus, who did a live demo showing how long it took in an incidence of home invasion. Someone banged the door down downstairs, he went to the gun safe’s numeric keypad taking a half second to open it, she said.

On the other hand, the incidence of home invasion is so minimal, as are the instances of a gunowner actually foiling an intruder.

“The FBI did a study of home invasions and found that 68% of home invasions happen between parties that knew each other.”

What is more likely is that believing you are defending yourself against an armed intruder, results in accidentally killing your 19 year old who comes home unexpectedly from college at 3 am.

See also:

Congressman Israel Presses Boehner to Bring Universal Background Checks Bill to Vote

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© 2015 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go towww.news-photos-features.com,  

Congressman Israel Presses Boehner to Bring Universal Background Checks Bill to Vote

Congressman Steve Israel came to Great Neck South Middle School to urge the House to vote on a bill mandating universal background checks to obtain a gun, joined by Great Neck Schools Superintendent Prendergast, Nassau County Acting District Attorney Singas Janina Bandi, of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Assemblywoman Schimel (not shown) © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Congressman Steve Israel came to Great Neck South Middle School to urge the House to vote on a bill mandating universal background checks to obtain a gun, joined by Great Neck Schools Superintendent Prendergast, Nassau County Acting District Attorney Singas Janina Bandi, of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Assemblywoman Schimel (not shown) © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

by Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Could it be that Pope Francis’ visit which brought Jon Boehner to tears, will inspire the House Speaker to show some courage and allow a vote on a bipartisan bill requiring universal background checks and closing the gun show loophole before he exits? The man who tears up at the drop of a hat, can show himself to be a man of fortitude, a real hero.

Boehner has it within his power to bring a bipartisan bill calling for commonsense gun regulations – supported by the vast majority of Americans – that would call for universal background checks and keep guns out of the hands of felons, terrorists, domestic abusers and the mentally ill.

Congressman Steve Israel did not exactly pose the question that way but, appearing on the steps of Great Neck South Middle School last Friday, flanked by the schools superintendent, Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel, Nassau County Acting District Attorney Madeline Singas and Janina Bandi, chapter leader of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, he noted that it was within Boehner’s power to allow a vote on the bipartisan bill, HR 1217, introduced by none other than  Republican Peter King of Long Island and Democrat Mike Thompson (CA) (who proudly wears his NRA button in his lapel). The bill already has 182 cosponsors (it would need 218 votes to pass).

Congressman Israel chided his colleagues in Congress for their moments of silence over what has become twice-monthly mass shootings, but stalwart inaction.

“Exactly one year ago, the entire country was swept up about fear of Ebola – 2 people died. Yet, the entire US Congress demanded immediate action – hospitals reconfigured, the White House engaged and there was action – as there should have been – to save lives against the threat,” Congressman Israel said.

“In one year, 30,000 have lost their lives to guns. Two to Ebola. 30,000 to guns. But in the year since, there has not been one hearing, not one committee meeting, not one bill, not one finger lifted in Congress to deal with gun violence.

“About every week, we’ve had a moment of silence, memorializing Americans killed in mass shooting. Enough silence. It’s time for action. American people have had it with inaction.

“Two people from Ebola. 88 Americans will die today as a result of gun violence. 30,000 in a year. There are been 300 mass shootings this year alone and it isn’t yet finished.

“Why I’m so frustrated? We know what we have is not working. We know what will work: commonsense reforms like universal background checks, which 90% of Americans support. It’s not hard. Even in this polarized environment, 90% supporting something is rare. Yet the NRA lobby is stopping action on what 90% – and the vast majority of NRA members- support.

“Too many of my colleagues are silent. We should make it harder, not easier for the mentally ill, terrorists, people on the do-not-fly list, to obtain guns. But for every day there is a moment of silence and not action, we are making it easier.  That is an abysmal failure of responsibility…

“If only Congress responded with as forceful power as it did on Ebola, this school would be safer.”

That point was driven home by Great Neck Schools Superintendent Dr. Teresa Prendergast, who described the lock down and table top exercises, an entire security apparatus including single point of entry to buildings, cameras, assembly programs for the youngest grades. “It’s reflective of the times,” she said.

How much does securing our schools against a madman who can so easily acquire a military-grade weapon cost? Dr. Prendergast said that the school district spends $1.8 million on security (not counting the expanded bus transportation program that was put into effect to increase security for children who would otherwise walk to school).  In an era of budget caps, she remarked, “Every dollar that is taken for security comes out of the classroom. We would we love to have that money for academic programs.”

New York has some of the toughest gun control laws in the nation – thanks particularly to the SAFE Act which was passed shortly after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Ct. – and while New York State is one of 21 states with tighter background check laws, without a comprehensive federal law many guns used illegally in New York are trafficked from states with less prohibitive gun laws. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives nearly 70 percent of firearms recovered and traced in New York State came from out of state.

“In Nassau County, one out of five crimes involve firearms. Nassau County is one of the safest counties, but is not immune, said Acting Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas, a member of Prosecutors Against Gun Violence. A national tragedy can be avoided with a little commonsense courage to take action. We are doing everything we can but legislative leaders in Washington need to have courage to stand up, support commonsense measures like background checks, adjudicated mental illness, straw purchases.”

Background checks are effective: The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which was signed into law in 1993, created the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and required federal background checks on firearm purchasers in the United States. Since its inception in November 1994, roughly 2.4 million gun sales to prohibited purchasers have been prevented because of background checks. But presently, there are huge loopholes in the system , for firearm sales made at gun shows, over the internet, or through private sellers, which fails to prevent the mentally ill, domestic abusers, or criminals from purchasing firearms.

But criminals know they can go to another state and buy with no questions asked.”

As Janina Bandi, the volunteer Chapter Leader for the New York Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, noted, 32 states don’t require any background checks (only 18 do). But when there is sensible regulation, 46% fewer women are shot and killed by intimate partner; 48% fewer people are killed when guns not easily accessible.

“Requiring background checks on all gun sales is the single most important thing we can do to reduce the gun violence in our country that kills 88 Americans every day and injures hundreds more. We don’t have to choose between protecting the Second Amendment and saving lives — we can do both.”

There is absolutely no reason at all while the Aurora shooter, who murdered so many innocents in a movie theater in Colorado was able to buy 4,000 rounds of ammo – no questions asked – over the internet. The dealer did not even know (or care) if he was a minor.

Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel, who has battled for sensible gun measures for more than 20 years in and out of government, evoked John Lennon and Carolyn Maloney’s husband, who was murdered by the LIRR shooter. “Enough. Churches, schools, movie theaters, restaurants. Am I next? We need universal background checks. New York passed SAFE Act and has the fourth lowest gun death rate in the nation.

Former Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, sent a statement saying,  “I know all too well the heartbreak and loss families of gun violence go through. words no longer enough. Sending our thoughts and prayers to the families affected by gun violence is no longer enough. We need substantial change in the way we approach this epidemic because saving lives should never be a partisan issue. Until we pass commonsense gun legislation in this country, I will continue my mission to fight for the families like mine that were forever changed by gun violence.”

And the Republican shell-game of placing the blame for the violence caused by easy access to highly lethal weapons and high-capacity magazines on mental illness, is contradicted by New Jersey Governor and Republican Presidential hopeful Chris Christie  recent veto of a bill that would have included local law enforcement officers in the process of deciding whether a person with a documented mental illness could apply for a gun permit.

Rep. Israel is a co-sponsor of H.R. 1217 the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act, also known as the bipartisan King-Thompson legislation, which expands background checks by closing gun sale loopholes and requiring comprehensive and enforceable background checks on all commercial gun sales. Additionally, Rep. Israel is a co-sponsor of H.R. 3411, the Fix Gun Checks Act, which was originally introduced by Rep. Carolyn McCarthy before she retired. This legislation would expand background checks, close gun sale loopholes including person-to-person sales, and makes it harder for the mentally ill to acquire guns.

Introduced in March by (amazingly) Peter King, R-LI, the preamble to HR 1217 says, “To protect Second Amendment rights, ensure that all individuals who should be prohibited from buying a firearm are listed in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, and provide a responsible and consistent background check process.”

In fact, it is an incredibly modest, stripped down proposal which only addresses background checks and closing the gun show loophole (www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/1217/text). You would think that the most ardent gun rights advocate would be happy to pass it, just to shut down any further, meaningful gun regulation by tossing these few crumbs which are wildly popular.

“Nobody really believes by passing legislation to close gun show loophole we would be repealing 2nd Amendment,” Congressman Israel said at the press conference on Friday. “That is an absurd argument. I will not support taking guns from law-abiding gun owners. This is about criminals, terrorist, mental illness. (Donald Trump opened a South Carolina rally by saying that President Obama is planning to sign an executive order taking everyone’s guns away.)

“Remember air raid drills? We don’t worry about that but have mass shooting drills. We are in a climate where we have to keep us safe not from nuclear weapons but a deranged person with a gun.”

I note that this proposal to make background checks universal is a great first step, but what about restoring the assault weapons ban that George W. Bush allowed to expire in 2004 (count up how many mass shootings in the blink of an eye have taken place since then and how many lives lost), and large capacity ammo?

“No where,” he said with resignation that is why so many people are fed up with government dysfunction. “They not only have refused the assault weapons ban and ban on large capacity magazines, but put a rider on a bill that prevents the CDC [Center for disease Control] from even studying the relationship and statistics showing gun deaths, gun violence and public health.”

“I am hopeful that before Boehner leaves, he will allow bringing it to the floor for a vote. Then members can vote yes or no. We are asking for Boehner, as one of his last acts before leaves, to give us a vote.

“I guarantee that if it gets to the floor, it will pass House. What happens in Senate is another issue – I would guess would be filibustered. But we should do our job.”

In other words nothing would be done – the action would simply be a sop.

What about smart guns? You would think that gun manufacturers would jump at the chance to replace 300 million obsolete guns, much as Apple gets their I-phone users to replace their I-phones. They could do imaginative trade-in deals.

“We actually thought about that,” Congressman Israel told me. “The biggest purchaser of guns from manufacturers is the federal government. We can set standards by requiring it in the specs.

Congressman Israel seems to be settling for very modest goals, leaving out a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammo clips, or making the gun manufacturers and gun dealers liable when their weapons. As Secretary Hillary Clinton noted during the Democratic Presidential Debate, why should the gun industry singularly be exempt from any accountability among all industries?

Why can’t the gun-sense lobby take up some of the tactics of the anti-woman’s rights lobby and make it more cumbersome, more expensive to obtain such lethal weapons?

When I raised the issue of why gun manufacturers can’t see their own self-interest in producing smart guns – that can only be used by their registered owner – Congressman Israel noted “We actually thought about that,” Congressman Israel told me. “The biggest purchaser of guns from manufacturers is the federal government. We can set standards by requiring it in the specs.”

But in the likelihood that this Congress would never impose anything on private companies, why can’t the President, by executive order, require guns purchased for the federal government be smart guns, just as the president has mandated a minimum wage and paid family leave for government contractors? Such standards from a big customer have the ability to transform industries – just as California’s Clean Air standards of automobiles transformed the auto industry.

Similarly, every police department in the country could set a standard requiring smart gun technology.

Maybe that toddler would have been alive if his 6 year old brother hadn’t been able to fire his father’s gun while playing cops and robbers. Indeed, hardly a week goes by where a toddler isn’t the shooter or the victim.

The Chicago shooting is the latest in a seemingly incessant string of American kids being killed by guns, often shot by other kids. This summer, another toddler was fatally shot by her 7-year-old brother in Washington. Earlier this month, an 11-year-old boy in Tennessee was charged with first-degree murder after shooting his 8-year-old neighbor with a shotgun after an argument over puppies.”

Parents should be prosecuted when their guns are used by their children. (Instead, Florida has a law that prevents pediatricians from discussing safe storage of guns in a home.)

Also, President Obama could sign an executive order closing a loophole that allows many gun sellers to avoid licensing (and therefore the obligation to perform background checks) by requiring any dealers who exceed a certain number of firearms sales a year to obtain a federal license and perform background checks.

What is more, the progressive organization Credo says that there is a way around the National Rifle Association’s grip on Congress that so far has blocked any gun control bill from getting a vote. “Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi can use a parliamentary tactic called a ‘discharge petition’ to force a vote on a gun control package, even if pro-NRA politicians in the House refuse to act,” writes Monique Teal of Daily Kos. That means that Jon Boehner wouldn’t even have to lose face and still do the right thing.

“Even if we don’t win an up-or-down vote, we can use a discharge petition to force a vote in the House and force members of Congress to pick a side. They can either stand with the American people who are ready to take action to reduce gun violence in America or they can stand with the NRA.” (You can sign a petition at www.dailykos.com/campaigns/1474?detail=action)

If this tool is available and Democrats don’t use it, it shows that they, for all this new-found bluster, are not really serious about the most significant public health policy this nation faces, either, and that it is only for the cameras in a district so solidly in favor of sensible gun regulation.

There are signs that people are actually rising up: in California, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsome is pushing for a “direct democracy” referendum that would require background checks in order to purchase ammunition.

And parents can let college campuses (and states) know they are opposed to allowing guns on campuses by demanding to know the college’s (and the state’s) policy, and refusing to allow their child to apply to those campuses.

Meanwhile, just this week, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld NY SAFE Act.

“Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld what we have long known to be true – that the core provisions of the NY SAFE Act do not violate the Second Amendment. Today, common sense prevailed.

“When we passed the SAFE Act, just days after the tragedies in Newtown and Webster, New York proved to the nation that it is possible to enact sensible gun control that coexists with the Second Amendment. We showed that it can be done with bi-partisan support from both urban and rural communities. And we took a fundamental step forward to help end the stream of senseless killings by keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and the dangerously mentally ill.

“This case validates a simple, fundamental truth about gun control: that it is possible to have strong laws that keep our communities safe, while at the same time respecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners. New York has set the example – and it’s far past time for Washington to follow suit and pass a sensible national gun control policy.”

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