Coming Down the Home Stretch
Late May means that it is crunch time at both the RI and MA state houses. Months of work - hearings, letter writing, lobby visits and phone calls - are on the line. It is also the period of time when lawmaking is at its ugliest. To some politicians everything is reduced to horse trading. Transparency, what little there was, is totally gone. The merits of a bill may mean little as it becomes one of many bargining chips in a massive "game".
What politicians often forget is that for people who are impacted by their actions, this is far from a game.
This is our lives.
This is whether our handicapped adult child will have access to adult day care or whether Grandma will be able to get the medicine she needs - or whether some person who makes a substantial amount of money will continue to enjoy the tax cuts that were handed out a few years ago in the failed idea that that would stimulate the economy and create jobs.
It is about whether the legislators will stand up for their constituents and insist that the police abide by rules that would curb some of the worst racial profiling or whether they will be intimited into supporting the status quo.
It is about whether the userous practices of payday lending outlets will go unchecked as money flows into campaign coffers or whether the legislature will stand up to a lucrative lobby and limit the amount of interest that can be changed.
And so - your state house representatives and senators need to hear from you. LOTS of you. If you want a community where all are treated fairly and people of color experience less racial profiling - please pick up the phone and make a call. I think at this point the legislators get it that there is a problem and that people of color want it to stop - but they don't get it that white people also don't like it and want it to stop. As one house member said yesterday "I've got the pulse of my constituents, and racial profiling is not an issue to them."
There are similar issues around funding for programs to end homelessness, the Just Cause Eviction bill (addressing foreclosure problems) and passage of the Homeless Bill of Rights by the House (it has passed the Senate).
YOUR voice is needed to help break the logjam and make sure that legislators understand that these are not bills that impact a small constituency but bills that shape the quality of life for the entire community.
You can find a list of Rhode Island bills that AFSC-SENE has worked on this yearin the document below called RI State House Watch.
In Massachusetts the focus has been on defeating an Alabama-style bill, S-2061. Under the guise of enhancing public safety the bill would facilitate the implementation of the controversial federal Secure Communities program in the Bay State and enact additional measures designed to isolate immigrant families from housing, education and legal protections. While targeting undocumented immigrants the bill would also severely affect documented immigrants and citizens in its implementation against mixed status families.
As the session comes to a close, watch for alerts that wording of this bill, which was not moved forward, to appear as an amendment to all sorts of "must pass" bills like the budget. Watch for related action alerts.
BUDGET FOR ALL REFERENDUM CAMPAIGN
The effort to get a referendum item on the MA state ballot in November is now in full swing. Check out the Budget for All website - it is full of information and resources that make doing this work easy. PLEASE, if you live in MA and want to help collect signatures during June to get the item on the ballot, contact the office, firstname.lastname@example.org We are still in need of people working on the Cape and in the Worcester area. THANKS
The SENE office will be closed May 25-June2. If you need any assistance, please call the regional office. Phone: 617-661-6130