Call your Senators and tell them to oppose the AHCA and support health care as a human right.
By Sondra Stein, Chair, Peoples Alliance Race Equity Team
North Carolina is the only state in the nation that still treats 16 and 17 year olds as adults in the criminal justice system. HB 280, the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act, is our best chance to change that and give teenagers who are guilty of a misdemeanor or a nonviolent felony a chance to start over and build a decent life.
The bill is expected to pass the House this week and there is also strong support in the Senate. But Senator Berger does not support it. We need to do all we can to convince him that raising the age is in the best interests of teen offenders and also of all of us in North Carolina. It saves lives. It save money. It delivers necessary services to young people with disabilities. It moves young people out of harm’s way and gives them a chance to build the knowledge and skills and temperament they need to contribute their gifts to our community.
This week we need to reach out to Senator Berger and convince him that supporting this legislation is good for all of us. Call his office. Write letters. Use these talking points from the Raise the Age Coalition.
For more information about why we must raise the age see these two articles:
By Alex McVey, PhD Candidate, Dept. of Communication, UNC Chapel Hill, Twitter: @JAlexanderMcVey
On Tuesday, March 28th, President Donald Trump signed the “Energy Independence” Executive Order. This sweeping executive order dismantles key features of the Obama administration’s climate policy. Trump’s executive order is terrible for the environment, and puts America’s leadership in global climate negotiations in jeopardy. The Trump administration claims that this Executive Order will protect the environment and the economy. The truth is, it will do neither.
The key mandates of the Executive Order include:
- Initiating a review of the Clean Power Plan
- Rescinding the moratorium on coal mining on federal lands
- Urging federal agencies to identify and eliminate all impediments to U.S. energy production
- Rescinding restrictions on hydraulic fracturing (fracking)
- Rolling back regulations on methane emissions by the oil and gas industry
An Environmental Disaster
This sweeping executive order poses an immense threat to the environment. The Clean Power Plan, a plan the Union of Concerned Scientists called a “climate game changer,” took aim at power plant emissions, a source of 40% of US’ carbon emissions. And the methane regulations targeted emissions generated by leaks from the oil and gas industry, a significant source of U.S. emissions.
While the Executive Order does not remove the United States from its obligations under the Paris Climate Agreement, it does undercut America’s ability to put pressure on other major carbon emitters like India and China.
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, “there is now an overwhelming scientific consensus that global warming is indeed happening and humans are contributing to it.” Climate change will have devastating effects on the environment, producing unpredictable weather events and putting numerous species at risk of extinction. And, climate change is an environmental justice issue, as it would hit poor communities and communities of color the hardest.
Trump’s Empty Economic Promises
Trump promises this Executive Order will end Obama’s war on coal and bring back coal jobs to Appalachia. However, these jobs have long gone the way of the dinosaur.
As a report published by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies makes clear, “basic economics” dictate that coal jobs will never return, regardless of how many regulations Trump rolls back. Rising natural gas production and shrinking export markets for dirty U.S. coal makes coal simply less competitive against other energy sources.
Additionally, increased technological automation of mining and transportation jobs on coal sites means the coal jobs Trump wants to bring back will never exist. That means coal industry executives will profit off of the destruction of the environment while Appalachian coal miners continue to find themselves out of work.
Trump’s Executive Order also ignores that the vast majority of new, lasting, well-paying jobs in the energy sector are all clean energy jobs. By gutting the Clean Power Plan, Trump is putting the clean energy industry at risk.
Finally, Trump’s Executive Order threatens the American economy by ignoring the inevitable economic consequences of global climate change. Rising sea levels could destroy America’s coastal cities, causing billions of dollars in economic damages. And rising temperature levels could devastate global agricultural production. The coastal cities of North Carolina would be hit especially hard by the economic impacts of climate change.
Trump is selling out America’s long-term economic health for the sake of short term profits for the fossil fuel industry.
What can you do?
It’s more important than ever to fight back against Trump’s energy policies. What can you do about the problem?
- Join the People’s Climate March – The People’s Climate March will be held on April 29th in Washington, D.C. and in cities across the country. Visit the hyperlink above to sign up and get involved. Also check out the North Carolina People’s Climate March Facebook Page.
- Check out 350.org: 350.org is an organization working on building a global climate movement. Check out their website to sign up for further climate actions.
- Get involved with Climate Action North Carolina: The North Carolina League of Conservation Voters’ Climate Action North Carolina is focused on engaging local communities on climate campaigns. Visit their website for more information.
- Call Attorney General Josh Stein and tell him to join the fight against Trump’s executive order: A coalition of Attorney Generals from 16 states have formed to fight back against Trump’s executive order. Call NC Attorney General Josh Stein and ask him to join this coalition. Stein has previously indicated a willingness to fight for the Clean Power Plan, withdrawing NC from a lawsuit against the Plan in February. Call him at (919) 716-6400, and tell him you want him to fight for North Carolina’s environment and join the coalition to take legal action against this Executive Order.
By Eleanor Wertman, MPH
Last week, the Indivisibull team met with a former DC staffer to hear her insights about contacting your members of Congress effectively. Shenoted that many practices and priorities vary across congressional offices, but below are some general tips to consider when reaching out to your elected officials.
Meeting with Your MOC
Meeting with your representative and/or their staff is the most powerful way to advocate for a cause that is important to you. The former staffer we spoke with shared some best practices to consider when visiting a member of Congress (MOC):
What should I talk about with my MOC?
Before your visit, do some research. Look up what committees your congresspeople are on. What issues do they care about? How have they voted in the past? Pick 1-2 timely issues that are already a focus for your congressperson. Ideally, your issues should be the subject of pending bills and/or a “hot topic” in the media. Determine at least one clear thing you are asking your MOC to do (e.g. vote a certain way, exclude a certain provision from pending legislation, etc.).
Who should I meet with, and who should come with me?
Identify 2-3 staffers within your congressperson’s office who are focused on the issue(s) you want to discuss and ask if they can participate, especially if your congressperson is not available for the meeting. Provide a pre-set agenda if you can so the staffers can prepare.
If you are working with several groups, bring one person from each group with you. Coordinate ahead of time to ensure your “asks” for your MOC are aligned. Affiliating yourself with a Chamber of Commerce and/or a trade association can be appealing to Republican MOCs.
What else can I do to make my meeting effective?
Try to identify at least one thing that you agree with your MOC about. Take an approach that is as bipartisan as possible and point out aspects of your argument that are likely to appeal to both sides of the aisle. Provide positive feedback about your MOC where possible; staffers and your MOC will be more likely to listen to you.
Bring a 1-2 page document with you explaining the key points from your discussion to leave behind with staffers. Include contact information so staff can follow up with you if needed.
Be polite and respectful, and cultivate a relationship with the staffers who attended the meeting. Get their email addresses and phone extensions if you can. Follow up after the meeting to thank all participants for their time and check in about relevant legislation.
(Indivisibull regularly meets with our MoCs to talk about issues that are important to progressives in Durham. Are you interested in joining us? Fill out this survey to let us know your interest and availability!)
After in-person meetings, phone calls are the best way to contact your MOCs. The staffer we spoke with provided lots of advice on how to make your calls as impactful as possible.
Who should I call?
DO NOT CALL MOCs IF YOU ARE NOT THEIR CONSTITUENT. Every congressional office has a database listing all adults of voting age within each district. If you are not a constituent, your call will not be counted. Calls from non-constituents can undermine the credibility of calls from actual constituents.
How are my calls counted/tracked?
The constituent database has some simple ways to track constituent opinions, e.g. whether someone supports or opposes a specific bill, plus a section for notes if a constituent requests a response. Constituent tracking can vary by office and by topic. Some offices will compile counts of calls about “hot topic” issues and send those counts to MOCs daily, then send call tallies about less urgent topics weekly.
Some offices tally calls based on the raw number of calls about an issue, while others simply tally how many individuals call about a topic (i.e. you are only counted once no matter how many times you call). Consider asking a staffer how their office counts calls.
If you leave a voicemail, your call will still be counted! Staffers check voicemails daily and tally them like constituent calls. Consider providing your full address when leaving a voicemail to ensure staffers can confirm you are a constituent.
What should I call about?
Call about specific legislation (including the number and name of the bill when available). If your MOC is on a committee reviewing a specific bill, call while the bill is still in committee. After the bill is out of committee, the MOC can’t do much to affect the bill except for vote for or against it. Check out https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/ to figure out bills’ committee assignments, then go to the appropriate committee website to see if any testimony/hearings about the bill have been scheduled. If a committee has lots of activity around a bill, this is a good indicator that the bill is more likely to make it to a floor vote.
If your MOC is undecided about an issue, it can be effective to call multiple times that week to try to flood the phones and turn up the pressure. When calling about major topics like healthcare, keep in mind that your MOC may have little leeway to change their vote because of pressure from their party. Be sure to keep an eye on smaller, more “niche” legislation and call about that as well; it can be easier to find common ground on a less controversial topic, and you’ll be more likely to actually influence a vote.
Calling about something that’s not currently the subject of pending legislation can still be useful, as staffers will code your response and be able to pull it up later. For these kinds of calls, your ask is to leave things as they are and not make things worse.
What should I say?
Keep it concise. State your name, zip code, and a pro/con statement about a specific issue. Most staffers simply record pro/con stance and nothing else, unless you specifically ask for a response. If you are calling about multiple issues, call once and state each issue clearly; begin the call by saying how many things you are calling about.
If you have a question about a specific bill, such as how it’s progressing through committee, consider asking to speak to the Legislative Aide (LA) for that particular issue. The LA will be more likely to speak to you when Congress is in recess.
If you disagree with your MOC on something, don’t mention that you’re calling as part of a group or an organization. However, if you agree with your MOC’s stance, it can be helpful to mention your group affiliation when calling.
Which office should I call?
When calling your MOC, don’t forget to call district offices from time to time. District staffers tend to be older and more experienced than DC office staff and get a lot of face time with the MOC when they’re at home. Because of their expertise and the relatively lower call volume at district offices, district office staffers may be more likely to engage during phone calls and provide information about MOC positions on specific issues. Most DC staffers will not have the authority/willingness to comment on their MOC’s stance.
What about calling committees?
If you call a committee about a bill they’re considering, you’ll probably get a staff assistant who is not accountable to voters. They may or may not record your input. However, it can be helpful to call committee staffers to ask about the progress of a bill through the committee. They may be able to give you a sense about where the bill is in the drafting process, if the bill is unlikely to make it out of committee, etc.
(Indivisibull is hosting an event at Ponysaurus on April 1st where we will have call scripts to call your MoCs about issues you care about. Join us!)
Writing to Congress
Personalized letters and emails can be a good way to share a more personal story with your MOC without having a face-to-face meeting. The more specific your letter/email is, the more likely it is to be sent to the MOC. Form letters like those generated by MoveOn.org and other big groups are likely counted in aggregate but do not have the impact of a personalized message, since they take little effort to write.
Sending letters can be a good test of how MOCs respond to constituent feedback, although keep in mind that a letter about a major issue will likely only get a form letter response.
Keep in mind that it takes time for congressional staff to process physical mail because of security concerns. If you want to contact your congressperson about an upcoming vote, consider calling instead of writing to ensure your opinion is heard in time.
It’s important but challenging to keep track of bills’ status in Congress. Individual committee websites often have information about scheduled hearings and votes on bills. However, floor vote schedules can be harder to find. The Republican Cloakroom (http://repcloakroom.house.gov/ or @senatecloakroom on Twitter) posts information about House floor votes and who voted for what. Also, consider downloading Whip Watch, a free iTunes app created by House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer that provides real-time updates about House votes (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/whip-watch/id995281189?mt=8). To track what’s happening in the Senate, follow the action on Twitter using @senategopfloor or check out the Democratic and Republican Senate Calendars (https://democrats.senate.gov/2017/03/#.WNfgNI61uRs and https://www.republican.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/senate-calendar, respectively). You can also use a resource like https://www.govtrack.us/ to get daily or weekly updates about specific legislation.
By Alex McVey, PhD Candidate, Dept. of Communication, UNC Chapel Hill, Twitter: @JAlexanderMcVey
The BRIDGE Act (Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy Act, also known as S.128 and H.R. 496) is a piece of bipartisan legislation introduced by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Dick Durbin (D-IL).
The bill extends the protections of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an Obama Administration policy which deferred deportation for certain undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children and allowed them to obtain work authorizations, social security numbers, and driver’s licenses.
President Donald Trump’s executive orders on immigration have set new targets for deportations, leaving DACA immigrants in a legal limbo. Legal experts are worried that without explicit legal protections, DACA immigrants will be targeted for deportation.
The BRIDGE Act provides these explicit legal protections to DACA immigrants. It allows immigrants who meet DACA requirements to apply for and receive “provisional protected presence,” protecting them from deportation and granting a work authorization that would end three years after the bill becomes a law. Immigrants who have already received DACA protection would automatically qualify for protected presence until their DACA expires, at which point they could reapply for the BRIDGE protections.
The bill also bars the sharing of information on BRIDGE applications with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
According to a study by the Center for American Progress, DACA has allowed over 740,000 immigrants to find higher paying jobs, attend college, start businesses, and contribute productively to the American economy without fear of deportation.
Sen. Graham’s website notes that the BRIDGE Act has broad support from faith, business, higher education, civil rights, and immigrant leaders. The BRIDGE Act, unlike DACA, is a law and would thus legally prevent President Trump from deporting America’s DACA immigrants.
The BRIDGE Act is currently under consideration by the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which Senator Thom Tillis is a member. Senator Thom Tillis recently penned an op-ed for the Charlotte Observer, promising voters that he would reach across the aisle to support bipartisan legislation. He wrote, “I resolve to work with my colleagues to succeed in producing the good rather than failing to produce the perfect. I’ll be reaching across the aisle to find opportunities to work with Democrats on the issues that desperately need to be addressed… [such as] reforming the nation’s broken immigration system.” The bipartisan BRIDGE Act gives Tillis the opportunity to put his vote where his mouth is and start working across the aisle to produce solutions that are good for immigrants and our economy.
We urge you to call your representatives, especially Senator Tillis, and encourage them to vote FOR the BRIDGE Act, using the following script:
"Hello, my name is [NAME] and I’m calling from [CITY, ZIP].
I’m calling to urge [Sen/Rep's Name] to support the BRIDGE Act (S.128 if Senate, H.R. 496 if House). The BRIDGE Act will protect undocumented students and veterans from deportation, and it will allow them to continue contributing to our American communities.
[For Tillis only] Senator Tillis has promised to work across the aisle to achieve bipartisan immigration reform. Passage of the BRIDGE Act is a way for him to keep this promise."
By Eleanor Wertman, MPH
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) and other Republican legislators have introduced a pair of bills in the House (H.R. 38) and Senate (S. 446), both known as the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017. These bills would require that citizens who have permits to carry concealed handguns in their home states be allowed to carry their weapons in other states that also allow concealed carrying of firearms. The House version of this bill is extremely broad and lets people who can concealed carry in their home state carry their handguns in any other state with concealed carry, even if that state has stricter concealed carry requirements. Thirty-nine states require some form of permit for concealed carry, with varying degrees of strictness. However, H.R. 38 would contravene these state permitting requirements and let people from states without any concealed carry restrictions whatsoever carry their guns in states with much stricter concealed carry rules. Disturbingly, H.R. 38 also permits concealed carrying of handguns in public areas, including national parks and school zones, even though the majority of Americans oppose such a measure. Further, the House bill grants concealed carriers the right to sue if their right to concealed carry is challenged, which would likely deter law enforcement from checking if concealed handgun carriers are carrying their weapons legally. Republicans claim to respect state-level legislation, yet H.R. 38 is a blatant attempt to use federal law to contravene states' gun control measures.
The Senate bill is somewhat stricter and states that the bill does not preempt existing state laws about concealed carry licensing; the Senate version also lacks language about concealed carry on public lands and does not grant concealed carriers the right to sue. However, S. 446 would still allow people from other states to bring their concealed guns across state lines, likely encouraging an increase in concealed carry rates overall.
Gun rights advocates often argue that increased rates of concealed carry make our society safer. However, concealed carry permit holders have murdered at least 898 people since 2007 (including 139 people killed in 29 mass shootings). Additionally, multiple studies have found that private citizens are far more likely to use guns to harm themselves or others than to use their guns to kill in self-defense; a study released in 2016 found that less than 1% of victims of attempted or completed violent crimes used a gun in defense, and only 0.2% of victims of attempted or completed property crimes used a gun.
Both the House and Senate versions of the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act are still before the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Thom Tillis has the most immediate opportunity to protect our state from more relaxed gun laws, which are a threat to public health and safety. Call Senator Thom Tillis and urge him to reject the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, especially if the final version of the bill allows people from states with lax gun laws to bring their weapons to states with more robust restrictions on concealed carry.
By Jennifer Hill, MPH
On March 2, in a hastily called news conference, Senator Sessions recused himself from any ongoing investigation into Russian ties with the 2016 election after news outlets found he had twice met with the Russian ambassador during the election.
But let's be clear: Senator Sessions has demonstrated a long track record of being unfit for the office of Attorney General. He intimidated black activists with phony voter fraud charges, was blocked from a federal judgeship because of racist statements, called the NAACP un-American, and has long opposed the Voting Rights Act, a piece of legislation that he will be required to enforce as the Attorney General.
And that was before he was Attorney General.
In the past week, he has shunted aside two key Obama administration civil rights decisions — protecting transgender students and Texas minority voters — and vowed to recommit federal resources to fighting crime, drugs and illegal immigration, a theme he repeated on Tuesday in his address to the law enforcement officials. On Tuesday, Sessions said that "the Justice Department will limit its use of a tactic employed aggressively under President Obama — suing police departments for violating the civil rights of minorities." And there's so much more.
While you're calling Senator Burr this week (see below), add in the following: “I am a voter who cares deeply about issues of racial injustice and civil rights, and I find what Senator Sessions admitted to this week appalling as well. I want the Senator to call for Sessions to immediately resign, as he is unfit for the office of Attorney General." And of course, call Thom Tillis about this, too!
February 24, news broke showing that Senator Burr can’t be objective in leading an investigation into Russia’s interference in the US election. Tell Senator Burr that we can't allow partisan politics to stand in the way of full transparency and ask him to recuse himself and support a nonpartisan independent investigation. The are 2 actions to take this week - call him and tweet at him!
Call his DC office:
(all Burr's contact info here)
Hi, I'm [NAME], a constituent from [zip code or address]. I'm extremely concerned about the extent of Russia's interference in the 2016 election and Presidential transition. And given the report on Friday that Senator Burr engaged with news organizations to dispute articles about the relationship between the Trump Administration and Russia, I no longer trust him to be impartial or non-partisan.
I'm calling to ask Senator Burr to publicly and legislatively support the creation of an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the matter. I don't want partisan politics or the Trump Administration's influence to bias the investigation, so I think it should be modeled after the 9/11 commission, which was more open to the public than a committee investigation. Please let Senator Burr know that this is a high-priority issue for me and I'll be paying close attention. Thank you!