The Continuing Resolutions (CR) …Continue

Capitol Hill

Are you surprised that Congress utilized another CR to fund the federal government?

If so, you really shouldn’t be. The national government’s budget calendar runs from October 1st through September 30th. Every year, Congress must pass and the President must sign 13 separate appropriations bills by October 1st to fund all of the national government’s departments, agencies and programs for the following year. In 2013, Congress failed to agree on any regular appropriations bills prior to the start of fiscal year 2014.

You might recall that an attempt was made to pass the Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2014 prior to October 1, 2013, but the House and Senate could not agree on its provisions, leading to the United States to a prolonged federal government shutdown and furlough of more than 800,000 federal workers. That shutdown involved House Republicans’ attempt to tie the CR to a defunding or delay of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The federal government resumed operations on October 17, 2013, after the passage of the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2014, a CR, that provided funding until January 15, 2014. On January 15, 2014, Congress passed another CR, H.J.Res. 106, to provide funding until January 18, 2014. Congress finally passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014, an omnibus appropriations bill, on January 17, 2014 to provide funding for the remainder of fiscal year 2014.

A Continuing Resolution (CR) must be passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the President. Generally, a CR funds agencies or programs for a month or two at the same funding level as the previous year. The main purpose of a CR is to keep the government running long enough for the Congress and President to work out an agreement on all 13 appropriations bills.

Time will tell whether the Continuing Resolution has now become the default method of funding, replacing agreement on 13 appropriations bills.

What do you think of Congress’ increasing reliance on the Continuing Resolution? As always, we would love to hear from you!

Women in Leadership Series: Norma Torres

Norma Torres

Could a woman whose parents sent her from Guatemala “on vacation”, become a U.S. Congresswoman?

It is quite possible with Norma Torres. Earlier this year, the current California State Senator announced her intention to run for the congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod.

As detailed in a recent Huffington Post article

“More than four decades ago in Guatemala, Torres’ parents told her she was going to the United States on a vacation. They declined to tell her she would not be coming back. Torres received a temporary visa and lived with her uncle in Whittier, California. She overstayed that visa, but her family helped her obtain legal residency while she was in her teens. She became an American citizen in the months leading up to the 1992 presidential election.”

Now 49, Torres is the favorite in a race between two Democratic candidates to represent a Los Angeles-area district in the House.

“In many ways, I see the decision these children have made … like the decision my parents made for me,” Torres is quoted as saying. “They wanted an opportunity for me to grow up and be a successful person.”

I think all can agree she has made good on her parents sacrifice. In addition to her support of humanitarian protects for the children who cross our borders seeking asylum, Torres also has a history of providing aid to the people of her community. In fact, she has served as a 9-1-1 emergency dispatcher, a City Councilmember, Mayor of the city of Pomona, California, Member of the State Assembly District 61 and District 52, and now as a California State Senator. Her campaign has been built around her record of representing the Pomona Valley and Inland Empire.

Promoted on her campaign website as accomplishments are:

- Working to secure billions in federal funding to helping families avoid foreclosure
- Fighting for better jobs for the Inland Empire
- Forcing state agencies to do a better job in enrolling our families for low cost health care

Congressional promises include:

- Fighting for better jobs, to protect families from the fallout from the housing crisis
- Improving local transportation infrastructure
- Protecting Medicare and Social Security, and
- Helping the Ontario Airport regain its footing as a hub of regional economic activity

What do you think of Norma Torres? A quick Google search will reveal more about her record.

If she were representing your state, would you vote for her? Why or why not?

Election Day Long Lines: Resource Allocation

Long Lines at the Polls

Is there a correlation between election day lines and resource allocations?

Yes – and minority voters are suffering as a result (or quite possibly by design). Research recently published by NYU Law’s Brennan Center for Justice focused on an issue that received much media attention on election day 2012 – incredibly long lines at the polls.

In the study, unmistakable patterns emerged:

– Voters in precincts with more minorities experienced longer waits. This mirrors findings from two prior studies, suggesting a genuine problem that needs to be addressed. For example, in South Carolina, the 10 precincts with the longest waits had, on average, more than twice the percentage of black registered voters (64 percent) than the statewide average (27 percent).

- Voters in precincts with higher percentages of minority voters tended to have fewer machines. This is the first multi-state study to assess voting machine allocation by race, and the findings are consistent with two county-level studies. In Maryland, by way of illustration, the 10 precincts with the lowest number of machines per voter had, on average, more than double the percentage of Latino voting age citizens (19 percent) as the statewide average (7 percent).

- Precincts with the longest lines had fewer machines, poll workers, or both. In Florida, for example, the 10 precincts with the longest lines had nearly half as many poll workers per voter as the statewide average.

- There is widespread non-compliance with existing state requirements setting resource allocation. Both Maryland and South Carolina set certain requirements for what polling places are supposed to provide voters, but only 25 percent of the precincts studied in South Carolina and 11 percent of the precincts in Maryland complied with these requirements.

In early 2013, President Barack Obama convened a bipartisan commission to address the problem of long lines and determine best practices for local election officials. According to the commission’s findings, 10 million people waited longer than half an hour to vote in 2012. The commission concluded that no voter should wait more than 30 minutes, and issued recommendations for election officials to improve the casting of ballots. Almost two years after the 2012 election, however, policymakers have done little to prevent long lines from recurring. This study offers fresh data to guide reform efforts.

Take a look at the full study here and let us know your thoughts.

Do you anticipate similar wait times for voters in 2014? As always, we want to hear from you!

Michael Brown, Eric Garner, John Crawford III, Trayvon Martin & Countless Others: Where Do We Go From Here?

Hands Up Dont Shoot

First of all, our thoughts and prayers go out to the mother, father and family of Michael Brown. There are no words of comfort that can ease the loss of your beloved child. Though we did not know Michael, we are grateful for his life, and certainly his death is not in vain. Our hearts are broken as a nation and the world watches on.


There is no turning back the clock on the outpouring of anger and emotion that has swept across our streets and homes, particularly in Michael’s Ferguson community. There is also no turning back the clock on the demand for a change in the tactics of some law enforcement around the country. Countless young men and women have lost their lives arguably because they were instantly judged and sentenced to death merely by the color of their skin.

In 2014, this trial by skin color must change, and we are the ones here to change it. Many people through the years have asked what happened to the revolutionaries? Who among the people today will stand for a cause? Will the children ever know what generations past went through to give them the freedoms afforded today? I believe we are witnessing the answer. Crowds of youth refuse to go unheard. Children barely old enough to walk are marching along with their parents in Ferguson. The unchecked killing, harassment, disrespect and brutality of our young people across the nation IS the civil rights issue of our time.

So where do we go from here? While much media attention has been paid to what happens in Ferguson after dark, during the day, thousands exercise their first amendment right to peacefully assemble. Countless others across the nation march in solidarity, write letters in solidarity, sign petitions in solidarity, and get organized in solidarity.

Where do we go from here? We are living the answer. May our nation become better as a result.

May all life become valued as a result.

What are your thoughts on the Ferguson protests, and protests that are happening around the nation?

- Contributing Editor – H. Muhammad

Seeking Nominations: UN GEM-TECH Award

UN Gem-Tech Awards

Is someone or an organization in your community worthy of the GEM-TECH Award?

Women’s digital empowerment and their full participation in the information society is a key objective of UN Women and ITU. ITU (International Telecommunication Union) is the UN specialized agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs).

Through the GEM-Tech Award, both UN bodies seek to create a platform for advancing women’s meaningful engagement with ICTs and their role as decision-makers and producers within this sector.

“In considering “gender equality mainstreaming” we are looking not only at ICT, government and development actors that are mainstreaming gender equality perspectives within their work, but also ICT and gender advocates that are seeking to “mainstream” gender equality into a larger context.

UN Women has prioritized women’s digital empowerment within all aspects of its work and the ITU Council at its 2013 session, adopted the ITU Gender Equality and Mainstreaming Policy (GEM). Realizing these goals presents many opportunities as well as challenges. While the potential is great and there are many examples of progress, there are also gaps and a need for increased attention, visibility, understanding, investment and action.”

Please note that this award is applicable for both women and men. For more information, please visit.

Who are you nominating? Let us know and we may feature your nominee on the People’s Place.

US-Africa Leaders Summit: Investing in the Next Generation

US Africa Summit

Have an interest in emerging markets?

You are not alone. In fact, countries across the African continent are in the process of reaping the benefits of emerging market investors. Governments around the globe have also raced to strengthen partnerships. Toward this end, over the next few days, President Obama will welcome leaders from across the African continent to the Nation’s Capital for a three-day U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, the first such event of its kind.

The US-Africa Leaders Summit marks the largest event any U.S. President has held with African heads of state and government. It builds on the President’s trip to Africa in the summer of 2013 and seeks to strengthen ties between the United States and one of the world’s most dynamic and fastest growing regions. Specifically, the August 4-6 Summit will advance the Administration’s focus on trade and investment in Africa and highlight America’s commitment to Africa’s security, its democratic development, and its people. At the same time, it will highlight the depth and breadth of the United States’ commitment to the African continent, advance our shared priorities and enable discussion of concrete ideas to deepen the partnership.

To view the program of events, and even watch some live via real-time streaming, visit here.

Do you agree that a summit of this kind is necessary at this time? What do you think? As always, we want to hear from you.

Women in Leadership Series: Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris

The Women in Leadership Series seeks to shine a light on women both in leadership positions and on the rise. Spotlights will be shined on women from all sectors of society from non-profit to government to the corporate arena.

Today’s spotlight is on Kamala Harris.

In 2011, Harris was sworn in as the 32nd Attorney General of the State of California and is running for re-election this November. She is the first woman, the first African American, and the first South Asian to hold the office in the history of California.

Recently Harris has gone on record calling the surge in young immigrants a humanitarian crisis, and also explained that she is helping secure lawyers to represent minors from Central America during immigration hearings.

Harris is definitely a leader to watch in 2014 and the coming years. Do you agree? Tell us what you think.

___________________________________________________________


Kamala Harris

As chief law enforcement officer for the state, Attorney General Harris has focused on combating transnational gangs that are trafficking guns, drugs, and human beings throughout California. She has worked to increase the adoption of technology and data-driven policing to assist law enforcement in the efficient investigation and prosecution of crime, and has traveled to every region of California to expand partnerships with local law enforcement.

As chief lawyer for the people of California, Attorney General Harris has led a bold response to the state’s foreclosure crisis. She has expanded prosecutions of mortgage-related fraud and crime by establishing a multi-divisional Mortgage Fraud Strike Force. On behalf of California homeowners, she secured an estimated $18 billion from the nation’s banks as part of the recent National Mortgage Settlement, including $12 billion in principal reductions. To restore transparency and fairness to the mortgage and foreclosure system, she wrote the nation’s most comprehensive package of foreclosure reforms—the California Homeowner Bill of Rights—and fought successfully for its passage through the California Legislature and saw it signed into law.

Attorney General Harris has aggressively defended the rights of consumers. She has forged innovative agreements with the technology industry to improve privacy protections and strengthen online safety for consumers across the country and has established new prosecutorial teams dedicated to fighting piracy and crimes committed online. She has also fought to preserve California’s natural resources, ensure marriage equality for all Californians, and defend the Affordable Care Act.

A career prosecutor, Attorney General Harris served two terms as District Attorney of San Francisco. Defeating a two-term incumbent, she was first elected DA in 2003, and was overwhelmingly elected to a second term in November 2007.

Attorney General Harris began her career in the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, where she specialized in prosecuting child sexual assault cases. In 1998, she joined the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, where she led the Career Criminal Unit. She also served as the head of the San Francisco City Attorney’s Division on Children and Families.

Born in Oakland, California, Attorney General Harris is a graduate of Howard University, America’s oldest historically black university. She received her law degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.

Attorney General Harris is author of the book Smart on Crime: A Career Prosecutor’s Plan to Make Us Safer.

Projection: 90,000 Unaccompanied Children will hit the US Border by Year End

Familes and Children Held In U.S. Customs and Border Protection Processing Facility

The number is astounding, and begs the question, “why kids?”

In a recent interview with the National Journal, Leslie Velez, senior protection officer at the U.N. High Commission for Refugees, explains why tens of thousands of children are fleeing El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala—some of the most dangerous places in this hempisphere. On Capitol Hill, the numbers have increased the debate over border policy, and led the Obama administration to declare “an urgent humanitarian situation”, prompting emergency response from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Statistics released by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reveal that 47,017 unaccompanied children ages 17 and younger have already been apprehended at the border during the 2014 fiscal year, a 92% increase over FY2013. But the question still remains…“why kids?”. Brian Reslick from the National Journal posed the question to Velez.

“The kids are vulnerable because they are children. And they are being targeted. We liken the situation very much to the situation of the recruitment of child soldiers on other continents. Children are particularly vulnerable, they are susceptible to harm, they are easily terrorized, and the very fact that they are children is the single factor in the harm that they are experiencing. They are specifically being target to be recruited. They are the ones who are being bullied.”

economist_immigration_map

FEMA will coordinate with several agencies that play a role in apprehending and caring for the children, including the departments of Health and Human Services, State, Defense, and the General Services Administration to provide housing, care, medical treatment and transportation.


Do you believe that these children should fall under protections guaranteeing them refugees status in the US? What do you think of FEMA’s involvement? As always, we’d like to hear from you.

For a link to the full article click here.

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Student Loan Relief: The Presidential Memoranda

Pay as you earn

Are you paying off student loan debt?

If you are like millions of Americans across the country, the answer is yes. Monday, President Obama signed a student loan memorandum enabling an increased number of borrowers to receive student loan payment relief.

There are five key actions as outlined in the memorandum:

– Expanding the Pay As You Earn Plan to More Federal Direct Loan Borrowers. Within 1 year after the date of this memorandum, the Secretary of Education shall propose regulations that will allow additional students who borrowed Federal Direct Loans to cap their Federal student loan payments at 10 percent of their income.

- Improving Communication Strategies to Help Vulnerable Borrowers. By December 31, 2014, the Secretary of Education shall develop, evaluate, and implement new targeted strategies to reach borrowers who may be struggling to repay their Federal student loans to ensure that they have the information they need to select the best repayment option and avoid future default.

- Encouraging Support and Awareness of Repayment Options for Borrowers During Tax Filing Season. By September 30, 2014, the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Education shall invite private-sector entities to enter into partnerships to better educate borrowers about income-based repayment plans during the tax filing season in 2015.

- Promoting Stronger Collaboration to Ensure That Students and Their Families Have the Information They Need to Make Informed Borrowing Decisions. By September 30, 2014, the Secretary of Education, in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury, shall develop a pilot project to test the effectiveness of loan counseling resources, including the Department of Education’s Financial Awareness Counseling Tool.

You can read the Memorandum here.

How are student loans affecting you or your family? Do you believe the actions outlined above will in fact provide relief?

As always, we want to hear from you!

My Brother’s Keeper: The Task Force Report

mybrotherskeeper

Have you been following the progress made on the My Brother’s Keeper initiative?

“There are some Americans who, in the aggregate, are consistently doing worse in our society — groups that have had the odds stacked against them in unique ways that require unique solutions; groups who’ve seen fewer opportunities that have spanned generations. And by almost every measure, the group that is facing some of the most severe challenges in the 21st century in this country are boys and young men of color.” – President Obama’s remarks upon announcing the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative.

Recently the task force charged with investigating the roots of the problem and recommending solutions, published its first report. Before we share those with you, we would like to share an excerpt from a recent article published by the New York Times, This Fugitive Life. The article shines a light on the depth of the problem that threatens us as a nation – the highly functioning and systematic mass incarceration of our young men and boys of color. They are routinely collected, much like a city’s trash, and ushered into the lucrative (for private investors), yet life-damning (for the young men and boys) “correctional” system. An excerpt from the New York Times article came be found below:

“Tim’s first arrest came at age 11. One of his older brothers, Mike’s friend Chuck, was driving Tim to school in his girlfriend’s car, and when a cop pulled them over, the car came up as stolen in California. Chuck had never been to California and had no idea which one of his girlfriend’s relatives had stolen the car. The officer took both brothers into custody. Down at the police station, they charged Chuck with receiving stolen property and they charged Tim as an accessory to the crime. Later, a judge in juvenile court placed Tim on three years’ probation.”
– Excerpt, This Fugitive Life, published by the New York Times.

Three years of probation for an 11-year old on his way to school? Not to mention the disruption to his psyche, time away from school while waiting to be sentenced, followed by the consequences of probation. Do you know any 11-year olds? How would their lives be altered by this same type of justice?

The effect the My Brother’s Keeper initiative will have remains to be seen. What is encouraging is the conversation and action toward change stemming from our highest levels of government. A few of the task force’s recommendations can be found by clicking here.

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