Springtime…Take A Deep Breath of Clean Air!
The assaults continued in April: on the Clean Air Act via attempts to gut the Environmental Protection Agency and on voters’ rights via discriminatory voter ID legislation in many states. Late this month, we launched a seven-figure television ad campaign calling public attention to the votes by Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) and Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) earlier in April to block new air pollution standards. The accountability ads call on both Senators to “protect the people, not the polluters."
More than 2/3 of states have passed or are considering laws that would make it harder for people to vote. Because of ONE case of voter fraud in 6 years, a new law disenfranchises 620,000 Kansas residents who lack government ID. An "emergency" Texas bill does not consider student IDs valid IDs to vote, but will allow anyone with a handgun license to vote.
But we are not deterred. Instead, we were especially heartened by this April 26 editorial in the New York Times, citing these challenges, while calling for action and highlighting the League’s work on voter protection and voter registration.
There's more below on these topics as well as the other vital work we have been doing this month. Read on…
And, we always look forward to your thoughts via our Facebook page and blog. We also recently joined Twitter! Find us as @LWV or www.twitter.com/LWV and follow us.
Voting Rights and the Election Process
Voter Protection: The League’s Public Advocacy for Voter Protection project is working in 22 states across the country fighting back voter photo ID bills. State Leagues have been writing op-eds, contacting legislators, providing testimony at hearings and educating the public. So far, 122 bills in 36 states have been introduced, and we have seen bills defeated in CO, IA, VA and NM. In mid-April, Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer vetoed a photo ID bill that had passed both houses of the legislature! We believe there are not enough votes to override the veto.
In Kansas we saw a setback when Governor Sam Brownback signed a bill that requires citizens to show a photo ID in 2012 and provide proof of citizenship when registering to vote in 2013 and beyond. Read LWV of Kansas President Ernestine Krehbiel’s statement after the signing and Krebiehl’s op-ed in the Wichita Eagle before the signing. In addition to the NYT editorial cited in the opening message above, the League received mentions on the April 26 Rachel Maddow show, covering the Florida Voter ID bill.
In the relentless assault on voting rights, the U.S. Department of Justice’s recent decision to allow the state of Georgia to implement a discriminatory requirement that new voters provide a U.S. passport or other proof of citizenship in order to register to vote is yet another challenge we have encountered and address here.
Voter Registration: Several key local and state League leaders joined the League’s Education Fund and national civic engagement leaders in Washington, DC, for a special High School Voter Registration planning event on April 14-15 (see photos on Facebook). The assembled stakeholders strategized how organizations at all levels can work together to encourage youth voter engagement in 2012 and beyond. The League concurrently introduced its latest publication, Empowering the Voters of Tomorrow, a high school voter registration training manual. The manual is based on the hard work of League volunteers, who participated in the 2010 High School Voter Registration project (highlighted in the NYT editorial). It provides field-tested tips and a range of planning, training, and outreach tools to help those in the field. The manual is available for purchase at the online store ($1 per manual, including s/h) and for free download.
Election Administration: In opposition to a bill which would terminate the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) and transfer some of its duties to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), League President Elisabeth MacNamara entered this testimony into the official record on HR 672.
Clean Air Defense
The Leagues took advantage of Earth Day (April 22) to take action and engage our communities to help safeguard the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to establish the urgently needed protections called for by the Clean Air Act. In a recent statement, League President MacNamara strongly voiced the League's concern about protecting Clean Air. Earlier, the League and coalition partners had sent a letter to members of the House of Representatives urging them to oppose H.R. 910, which would put America’s health, prosperity, and national security at risk.
Also, the League, with the American Lung Association and the Sierra Club, has been conducting a series of phone briefings that target women in seven states about the health risks inherent in stripping the EPA of its authority over clean air. The first “Talking about Toxics Program” was held in Ohio on April 14 with a second on April 20 in Michigan. Future briefings will be conducted in Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Missouri, Colorado and Massachusetts.
Budget / Health Care Defense
Early in the month, the League joined others in voicing opposition to obstructionist provisions to the federal budget through letters to the White House and Senate leaders, urging rejection of provisions that erect obstructions in future 2011 spending bills. More recently the League President sent a letter to Senators, urging them to carefully contemplate the underlying equity and policy decisions that are reflected in the budget. The LWVUS Lobby Corps members have been visiting Senate offices with the League’s message.
Women, Money and Power Summit
The LWVUS, in partnership with the Feminist Majority and YWCA, co-sponsored the Women, Money and Power Summit on April 7-9 in Washington, DC. LWVUS Executive Director Nancy Tate spoke at the closing plenary.
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Is Your Retirement Plan Up for Double Taxation?
Did you know that many retirement plan assets, like IRAs, face double taxation when they’re paid out to your heirs as part of your estate? That’s because assets in retirement plans funded with pretax dollars are considered "income in respect of a decedent." So, not only might estate taxes take a bite out of the amount left to your heirs, but your heirs will have to pay income tax on the amount as well! If you’re in a position to, you might consider instead leaving your retirement plan assets as a charitable gift to the League of Women Voters Education Fund. Your gift will provide much needed support for the League’s work, and reduce the tax burdens on your heirs. We recommend that you first consult your estate planning advisor, then contact the retirement plan administrator about your decision. It might just be a matter of signing new beneficiary forms. For more information on this and other planned giving opportunities, please contact the League at 202-263-1355 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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