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News/Policy | Jewish Social Policy Action Network


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Congressman Barney Frank's Remarks Against the PERA

Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Mr. Speaker, the gentleman from Texas has been an eloquent, true conservative on the question of the entanglement of religion and government, because he expresses what every religious leader ought to share, the distrust of government if it seeks to intervene in religious matters.

The Problems with the Medicare Drug Program - and How to Fix Them

This video comes courtesy of Families USA a national nonprofit, non-partisan organization dedicated to the achievement of high-quality, affordable health care for all Americans. JSPAN is a part of Pennsylvanians United to Fix Part D, a coalition of organizations committed to fixing or improving the Medicare Part D coverage gap. As it now stands, millions of seniors are on the verge or have already fallen into the "donught hole," a gap in the coverage Medicare Part D provides on perscription drugs.
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The Public Expression of Religion Act of 2005: A Bill That Is Intended to Eviscerate the Establishment Clause

By Marci Hamilton Recently, Rep. John Hostettler (R-IN) introduced the Public Expression of Religion Act of 2005 (PERA). PERA enjoys the support of forty-five other sponsors (all Republicans save one), and of the American Legion. James Madison, however, must be rolling over in his grave. PERA is a creative attempt to forestall Establishment Clause attacks on public displays of religion - from statues and plaques of the Ten Commandments placed at courthouses, to government placement of religious symbols such as crosses and menorahs in public areas. Indeed, PERA's language goes so far that it could even protect government-sponsored sectarian prayers from Establishment Clause challenge. If enacted into law, PERA would forbid awards of damages, and awards of attorneys' fees in cases involving the Establishment Clause. As a result, such lawsuits would end, at most, in injunctions - and plaintiffs' lawyers would have to accept the cases on a pro bono basis, or not at all.

Supreme Court Drops the Ball on Gerrymandering

In March we held a program, entitled "Can the Majority Take All?" on the danger political gerrymandering poses to our democratic process and electoral rights. The Texas redistricting case, in which former House Majority Leader Tom Delay orchestrated a mid-decade redistricting plan solely for partisan gain, saw the ouster of four incumbent Democratic legislators and disenfranchised the voting rights of Texas's Latino population. While the Court ordered the infamous District 23 to be redrawn, the justices found in favor of the overall Texas congressional map. Sam Hirsch, a lawyer involved in both the Texas cases (League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry) and the Pennsylvania redistricting ordeal (Vieth v. Jubelirer), had made the point at "Can The Majority Take All" that congressional districts should be drawn to maximize competition and should engender community activism. The Texas map does neither.

Governor Signs Minimum Wage Bill

Governor Rendell signed a long-awaited bill that will increase the Pennsylvania minimum wage to $6.15/hr by January 1st and $7.15 by July 1st, 2007. Smaller employers (fewer than ten employees) will see a more gradual phase in. While JSPAN lauds the Pennsylvania Legislature's ability to pass the first minimum wage increase in almost a decade, there is still much left to accomplish. Importantly, the new law preempts all local legislation on this subject, thereby preventing Philadelphia and other cities from enacting living wage ordinances. Also, the new legislation does not contain any automatic cost of living feature. That means that we will continue to have to face this issue, even though the salaries of legislators and judges and benefits under the social security system are pegged to inflation. What a shame that the economic health of the working poor will continue to be a political football starting 18 months from now. Delaware also joined Pennsylvania and a dozen other states in raising its minimum wage. Starting from the current $6.15 rate, the Delaware minimum wage will rise by 50 cents on January 1, 2007 and January 1, 2008.

JSPAN Announces Recipients of Social Justice Award

Andrew Chirls, immediate past chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association, and Larry Frankel, legislative director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, will be honored by the Jewish Social Policy Action Network (JSPAN) on Tuesday evening, September 19 at 5:00 p.m.

Time to Try Something Else

by MJ Rosenberg Note: This story comes from the Israel Policy Forum If there is one trait that distinguishes great leaders from those who miss the mark, it is the ability to change course when a particular policy has failed. Franklin D. Roosevelt, consistently ranked by historians as one of America's three most successful Presidents (with Washington and Lincoln), put it like this: "Take a method and try it. If it fails, try another. But by all means, try something." A corollary to FDR's view was the adage often cited by Albert Einstein which held that "insanity can be defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." One wonders, then, what either of these men would make of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as it is playing out today. Actually, one does not have to wonder. One can say with certitude that either would recommend a course correction and, even more likely, would encourage both sides – not to mention the United States – to consider a drastic overhaul of policies that produce little but suffering.

Take the Food Stamp Challenge

The Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger has issued a challenge to everyone to learn about food insecurity, firsthand. During the week of July 17, the Coalition Against Hunger is asking those who have never experienced hunger or food insecurity to feed their families on a food stamp budget.

Church changes course on divestment

On Wednesday, June 21, the Presbyterian Church changed course on a 2004 decision of divestment in Israeli corporations. "The passage by the Presbyterian Church (USA) of a resolution to use their normal corporate engagement process rather than the 2004 policy that singled out Israel for 'phased, selective divestment' turns an important corner," stated a joint press release from a coalition of national Jewish organizations that included the American Jewish Committee, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, and the National Council of Jewish Women.
  • To read the joint press release by the coalition, click here.
  • To view the Jewish Council for Public Affairs statement, click here.

Harvey Glickman: All Terrorists are Not Alike

What happens when the United States treats all terrorists as if they are alike? The result is policy muddle, which can have disastrous consequences, according to Harvey Glickman, Professor of Political Science emeritus at Haverford College. Dr. Glickman presented his arguments at JSPAN’s annual meeting on June 6, 2006. Noting that the use of terror is a tactic, not an opposing system, Dr. Glickman observed that there is a fundamental flaw in the logic of those who analogize the current “war on terror” to the Cold War or the war against fascism. It is fallacious to think that the struggle against terrorism is finite or that there will ever come a day when we can celebrate complete victory. Yet, characterizing current efforts in this language practically precludes rational argument because no one in the American political system wants to be trapped favoring terrorists. Calling it a war is inappropriate and serves to excuse considerable restrictions on the civil liberties of Americans.
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