GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE (AND THE ECONOMY)
The 111th Congress and the Obama administration are expected to move quickly with an economic stimulus package. The League supports investing taxpayer dollars in green infrastructure and green jobs development that immediately puts people to work and reinvigorates the economy. Such a package should be considered a down payment on action for comprehensive legislation to stop global climate change, including a cap on greenhouse gas emissions based on the best scientific information.
Investments in transforming our energy infrastructure, updating clean water infrastructure, boosting transit funding, restoring lands and training our workforce will yield significant economic growth and job creation. In fact, "green" investments, on average, create more than twice as many jobs per dollar invested compared to traditional fossil fuel-based generating technologies. "Green" investments accomplish this by redirecting money previously spent on inefficient energy use and imported fuel toward advanced technology, modern infrastructure and skilled labor.
The stimulus package could include near-term spending on a range of transportation, manufacturing, construction, building efficiency, neighborhood revitalization, natural resource restoration, and workforce development programs and some changes to the tax code. The job creation benefits of many of these programs have been outlined in a report released by the Center for American Progress and the University of Massachusetts's Political Economy Research Institute, entitled "Green Recovery: A Program to Create Good Jobs and Start Building a Low-Carbon Economy."
What You Can Do:
Urge your Members of Congress to support a stimulus package that will invest in green infrastructure and green jobs development as a down payment for action on comprehensive legislation to stop global climate change.
The League of Women Voters believes that the United States, as the world's largest per capita source of greenhouse gas emissions, must set a firm limit, or cap, on these emissions. The cap must decline over time to meet pollution-reduction goals based on the best scientific information. Enforceable interim and long-term goals are needed to compel early and effective action and guard against irreversible damage.
The Obama administration has promised early action on health care. Although we don't expect swift action on universal health care issues, there are a number of health care items that are expected to come up early, in particular State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).
The League worked very hard for passage of SCHIP, which fell to presidential veto three times last year and was ultimately extended into 2009. Look for SCHIP to come up early in this 111th Congress.
The benefits of SCHIP are unequivocally clear. In the decade since Congress passed SCHIP, the program has provided health care coverage to six million low-income children who are not eligible for Medicaid, which covered 28 million children. As a result, the percentage of low-income children in the United States without health coverage has fallen by one-third in the past decade even as employer-based coverage has decreased.
As Congress and the new administration work to put together a major heath care reform proposal, it is important for citizens to let their views be heard. Please check the League Web site periodically (www.lwv.org; click on "Take Action") for the most current information.
What You Can Do:
Tell your Members of Congress to pass SCHIP before it expires this year. Remind them that SCHIP provides health care coverage for low-income children who are not eligible for Medicaid.
As Congress begins to consider health care reform, remind your Members of Congress that a basic level of quality health care at an affordable cost should be available to all U.S. residents as a matter of public policy. It is critical that health care reform include the equitable distribution of services, efficient and economical delivery of care, advancement of medical research and technology, and a reasonable total national expenditure level for health care.
CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM
Campaign finance advocates believe that the main priority for the 111th Congress is to repair the presidential public financing system and to create a new public financing system for congressional races. The key role that influence-money played in creating the national financial crisis provides just on more example of the enormous costs to citizens and taxpayers that come from federal candidates being dependent on special interest groups, lobbyists, bundlers and large contributions for their campaign funds.
Many political observers have commented and written about the success the President Barack Obama had in raising small donations online from millions of Americans. Most federal races, however, do not garner such wide attention from citizens, and therefore do not yet have the same level of small donor success. Congressional candidates must focus on the largest donors they can find in order to mount competitive campaigns. Campaigns fundraising takes lots of time away from the important work of meeting voters, reaching out to organized groups and conducting town hall-style gatherings.
A voluntary system of public funding for elections would allow lawmakers to spend far less time fundraising, and still wage a competitive, modern campaign. The Fair Elections Now Act was introduced in the last congressional session by Senate Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (DIL) and Senator Arlen Specter (RPA), and will be re-introduced in this Congress. It provides candidates the opportunity to qualify for a set amount of public money to run their campaigns if they agree to take only small donations. It is principally modeled on laws working well in Arizona, Connecticut, Maine, North Carolina and elsewhere.
New, election-week polling data has suggested wide and deep public support for public funding of elections, and we believe that the next congressional session will be a crucial moment to advance this ground-breaking reform.
What You Can Do:
Tell your Members of Congress it is urgent that they take action to fundamentally reform the nation's campaign finance laws. Urge them to cosponsor the Fair Elections Now Act. Also urge them to support reform of the presidential public financing system to bring it up to date.
DC VOTING RIGHTS
Action on the landmark DC Voting Rights Act is anticipated early in this 111th Congress.
According to a national poll conducted by KRC Research, 82 percent of Americans believe that DC residents deserve full voting representation in Congress. Prominent constitutional scholars and administration officials agree. It's time for Congress to do its job!
What You Can Do:
Keep the pressure on your members of Congress. Tell them it's time to enact the DC Voting Rights Act.
Join the Grassroots Lobby Corps and make a difference! Stay informed and take action with the League on important upcoming battles for responsible federal policy. To sign up to receive action alerts by e-mail go to www.lwv.org and click on 'Take Action." It takes just a few minutes a month to make your voice heard.