Thursday, February 23, 2017

Shimkus Townhall Primer

Here’s a primer if you’re heading to see Rep. Shimkus at one of his district offices or are planning to email him. 

This is a list of the legislation he’s co-sponsored or spoke on the floor of the House during the 115th Congressional Session.
  • Shimkus co-sponsored House Joint Resolution 38. It allows coal companies and other businesses to dump chemicals into streams without EPA enforcing clean water provisions.
  • This bill became law. 

  • He also co-sponsored H.R. 354, the Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2017, an unconstitutional act. 

  • He also spoke on the record about H.R. 7, which defunds health plans that covers elective abortions of Federal employees, congressionally appropriated funds for abortions in D.C., and restricts elective abortions in federal prisons and through the Peace Corps. 
  • This bill already passed the House.

  • And, Shimkus also co-sponsored H.R. 548 on healthcare liability. Not sure what this is about, but it grants hospitals and emergency departments liability protection. This bill sounds a bit scary if a doctor or other medical personnel would make a grievous error that was avoidable. It would make the facility and the personnel not liable for damages. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Killing Public Schools; Analysis of H.R. 610 and The Choices in Education Act

The Replacement: Choices in Education Act
  • Makes Secretary of Education into glorified application evaluator and check writer.
  • Creates a block grant system to the states.
- This allows Secretary of Education to determine winners and losers.
  • Demands states to create voucher program.
- This allows governors and state legislatures to determine winners and losers.
  • The Secretary determines ratio of funds of block grant money distributed.
- This would severely damage undocumented children, states and local jurisdictions 
           with high undocumented children populations
  • Allows Secretary to create reallotments if state is determined ineligible for grants.
- This exposes the agenda: government wants to punish states with which it disagrees.
  • Re-distributes funds from public schools to private schools to create competition.
- This exposes the agenda: kill public schools.
  • Raises the costs of education through voucher program.
- Each private voucher includes tuition, fees, and transportation, which is higher than public education. 

- This is a direct payment from taxpayers to private businesses.

- The creation of competition by this bill coupled with the higher costs of tuition, fees, 
           and transportation will severely limit funds to public schools.
  • Increases the incentives of homeschooling as a direct payment from the government.
- This has serious limitations for the comprehensive education of students. 

- Is not taxable.

- Is not equitable.
  • Eliminates nutritional requirements in food programs.

The Repeal of Elementary and Secondary Education Act
  • Any grants or contracts awarded prior to H.R. 610 would be voided. 
- This would create instability and uncertainty throughout the country. 

- Specifically, local school districts and jurisdictions awarded grant money or contracts   through the Department of Education would not know if that money would support the   
          programs currently being implemented. 

-This places undue burdens on local school districts and their taxpayers.
  • Actions to Improve Low-Performing Schools would be discontinued.
- The raising of standards and increased accountability in public education would cease. 

- These measures would be especially difficult for schools in areas of high poverty. 

- Technical assistance and capacity building assistance would end. 

- This would eliminate funds to schools and states with under-performing schools. 

- Would end assistance to build private partnerships with foundations, businesses,   community-based orgs, and other organizations to help schools improve.

- Ends compliance monitoring of schools, leading to less accountability.

  • Ends equal access to education.
  • Ends funds for professional development of teachers and staff.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Conversation with My Representative

It was a wonderful opportunity today to go to Neoga for Rep. Shimkus’ District traveling help desk. He ended up not making an appearance, but his district director was quite courteous and knowledgable. She’s been with him for 20 years. 

The majority of the time was occupied with questions and concerns about the Obamacare repeal and replace efforts in Congress. It seems that any answers from Shimkus on this are going to be highly vague. She offered these proposals: mandating people to go to a primary care physician, block grants to states for Medicaid, and high risk pools for pre-existing conditions. 

The array of voices was both conservative, liberal, young and old. I believe by the end of a roundtable on this issue the constituents felt fixing the law seemed a much preferable first line approach. The district director didn’t really respond to this. I asked specifically about taxes being part of any plan to make up the difference between the current law and any replacement. Again, she said it was too soon to really know the shape of the plan.
+Wonderful World

All of the constituents expressed dismay and frustration that after 7 years the GOP had no plan ready to go. Excuses ranged from re-districting, to GOP having offered up plans, and to Harry Reid blocking proposals in the Senate. None of these seemed to pass the smell test with me.

I asked specifically about Shimkus’ position on Sanctuary Cities and the GOP-Trump proposal to deny federal funding to these cities and in some cases states. I cited South Dakota v. Dole from 1987, a 7-2 conservative decision that used states’ rights to make this sort of federal government coercion unconstitutional. She felt that Shimkus would side with denying funds to Sanctuary Cities, but that she would bring up this states’ rights concern.
+Wonderful World

Also, we discussed Medicare and Social Security. She stated his position as follows: he will not support changing eligibility age for those currently in the system. That being said, she seemed to suggest that Shimkus strongly supported increasing income caps, as these haven’t risen for decades. There’s no reason why someone like Trump or Warren Buffett shouldn’t be paying more into the Social Security and Medicare system. 
+Wonderful World

Lastly, I brought up food insecurity in the district, citing Cumberland County’s statistics to push Shimkus to support expanding food stamps. I offered up that for every $1 spent on food stamps by the federal government $1.76 is generated in economic output. It pays for itself and helps protect families and children. The answer was to point people toward food pantries, which I countered that many times a transportation barrier exists for these families.

I’d suggest to anyone to go to these events with an open mind and listen to what is said by others and by the representative and/or their office staff. This was an amazing opportunity to begin a dialogue and learn more about where Shimkus actually stands on some key issues.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Stop Protecting Ideology; Ask More

The fact people still believe that being right is all that matters should be funny. It's actually dangerous. 

I come across Bernie supporters all the time that still believe Trump is better than Hillary. They believe in almost nothing. At least Trump supporters support something tangible, like a “Wall” or a ban, no matter how offensive it might be. 

Members of Congress are as confused as the populace. They don't have a governing principle that makes sense because the people that sent them to Congress aren’t coherent nor bipartisan. Truly, members of Congress’ governing principle is to be re-elected so they can have a chance to positively impact the future of our nation. If we believe otherwise, we’re demonizing our opposition. 

+Amazing World
I know this might be difficult to swallow, but we just had a forum here in the 110th state representative district in Illinois, and those officials and professionals that said we should talk directly to our representation were told the truth . . . rational voices don't matter to our representation and most certainly our outcomes

The rational middle doesn't speak out in enough numbers in enough places to matter. And, in addition, they don't know enough to matter. Some of the ones that speak loudly and often happen to carry 'arms' and be as irrational as they are emotional. The others gather in cities in such a way that allows a few incendiaries to negatively characterize them as violent anarchists. 

It's actually usually the opposite. The most vocal and obvious people are not indicative of others; they are simply more obvious. 
+Amazing World

We had a high turnout election here in a rural district, and the outcome was what it is. Work the data; it fails.

There is something inherently broken somewhere. It's either in the message or the messengers . . . probably, both

We know the policies of Trump and the prevailing conservatives are failures . . . this is undeniable. Yet, we communicate that ineffectively to regular people. 

How is that not on each and every one of us?

Can we really just believe we’re right and that’s all that matters? Isn’t that what the other side believes?

It's possibly because we can't communicate a positive agenda as an effective alternative that others can believe and support. 
+Amazing World

OR, we simply don't understand the inherent problem. It's not a matter of outcomes. It's actually a matter of capacity. Government doesn't have enough capacity to work properly. 

Capacity is two-fold. Resources and Approaches

Government has been starved of resources for decades. This has been the prevailing conservative approach. However, training and management have not been approached effectively during the same period. These two prevailing environments have eroded public confidence in governance and, for some, in the broader economy. 

+Amazing World
This has allowed conspiracy and duplicity to be fostered and nurtured. 

How do we move forward?

There are many within government and business that take advantage of the inefficiencies within society and people. If we don’t hold ourselves and others accountable, we cannot hope to hold the public and private systems accountable.

Both ideologies want to protect their ideology. 

This has to end. 

What we need as a society and as a country is to ask more of each other and of our elected officials. If we don’t take part in our system of government AND our communities, we cannot blame both for being broken.